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Contrarian ideas on the value of outside counsel who have industry experience

Most surveys that ask law departments to rank the criteria they use for choosing outside counsel report in the top two or three criteria “industry experience.” In-house counsel like working with external lawyers who know their industries’ issues, terminology, history, and business models.

Yet Geoffrey Parnass, a New York City lawyer writing in GC New York, Oct. 11, 2005 at 14, holds the belief that “[I]ndustry knowledge doesn’t have to be deep. In fact, too much knowledge can be counterproductive.” He gives no rationale for this contrarian view, and I completely disagree with him.

In the following paragraph, Parnass writes, “But don’t expect too much industry knowledge in outside counsel. Look instead for lawyers who have a broad knowledge of several industries. … Like bees moving from flower to flower, outside counsel with experience in a number of industries can bring new ideas and solutions.” My view: if you retain someone who lacks familiarity with your industry, you are much more likely to get stung.