This post is not about the use of “local counsel” to mean counsel hired in another country. One particular form of that includes firms privileged to practice before a country’s patent and trademark office (See my post of Aug. 7, 2007: IP specialists in foreign countries; and April 10, 2006: patent and trademark counsel overseas.).
Instead, this post is about the term “local counsel” used within the same country. The most common domestic use of “local counsel” is in litigation, where a law department retains a large firm to handle most of the substantive legal work and a smaller firm near the courthouse to handle administrative matters such as filings and to share insights about the judge and opposing counsel and even the jury (See my post of Oct. 24, 2005: litigation counsel for FMC retains local counsel in their budget; Feb. 18, 2007: ethical rules and the cost-effective retention of local counsel by national counsel; April 10, 2006: benchmark figures for total law firms retained ought to exclude purely local litigation counsel; Dec. 4, 2008: local counsel may distort data on hiring new firms and firing firms; and July 16, 2005: multi-sourcing is another term for this arrangement.).
The term local counsel can also refer to firms that a law department selects because of their proximity to a non-litigation matter (See my post of Aug. 21, 2005: local environmental counsel.).
The term can also refer simply to geographic proximity – the firm next door (See my post of March 19, 2007: arrangement with distant firms on travel costs to match nearby counsel.).