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Instruct law firms how to handle calls directly from clients

Sabine Chalmers, chief legal officer of InBev, writes in ACC Docket, Vol. 30, June 2008 at 14, about the “sticky area of whom the law firm should accept instructions from.” She notes that being clear on what the law firm should do if a client reaches out to the firm directly – not through the law department – “is especially important in organizations where the business people have a habit of contacting external counsel directly. Agreeing up front on how to deal with such situations will ensure that misunderstandings and ill feelings do not arise further down the road.”

A CEO can’t justifiably hold a general counsel responsible for legal expenses – let alone results – if clients on their own can hire law firms. All law firms should understand that they should notify the law department if clients reach out to the firm independently (See my post of Aug. 30, 2006: law department should control retentions of law firms.).