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.