Several months ago I passed on what information was then available to me about the impressive efforts of the Belgian Post to transform its use of outside litigation counsel (See my post of March 12, 2009: tantalizing ideas.). At the Legal Week Corporate Counsel Forum last week, Dirk Tirez, the general counsel and corporate secretary of the company, spoke at length about the initiative. My notes supplement what I wrote before.
When Tirez took his position six years ago, the Belgian Post had about 3,000 lawsuits handled by 65 law firms. Now, nearly all the litigation defense is handled on fixed fees by two firms. The firms can earn performance bonuses for results obtained. The expenditure was nearly 100 million Euros when Tirez took over but the number of pending cases and amount of ongoing expenditures have both fallen drastically.
Tirez collects and analyzes all kinds of metrics. In part he does this to make decisions and in part so that he can explain to senior management the efforts undertaken to control costs with quality.
Tirez believes that technology is an “accelerator.” His department has a matter management system, an “e-filing system” that uses scanners and search software, and both an intranet and a client extranet. He does not charge back to clients the costs of external counsel, because he does not want clients who feel under financial pressure to refuse to pay for necessary legal services. He does, however, tell clients quarterly what their legal expenses were.