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Issues of concern for Asian and Middle Eastern departments when they deal with external counsel

In the summer of 2008, Asian-Counsel surveyed law departments in Asia and the Middle East. One question asked in the survey was “Which issues have you found to be of concern when dealing with outside counsel?”

I estimated from the bar chart that depicts the percentages of the five issues that got the highest responses from the respondents.

“Excessive fees” (58%)
“Failure to answer our questions/concerns in a reasonable time (40%)
“Failure to completely understand our business/company” (35%)
“Wrong/bad advice given” (33%)
“Work performed slowly/inefficiently (33%)

Some of the other choices available were “unexplained fees” and “lack of involvement by partners.”

As to the fees, I have commented before on the basis for such a complaint (See my post of March 25, 2009: survey of Asian-Pacific departments.).

The shocking finding is how frequently the survey respondents report that the law firm blew it – they gave wrong legal advice or bad legal advice. The same survey found that the most important factor for this group of respondents when they chose outside counsel was “expertise,” yet those experts erred enough to make the top five list here (See my post of March 25, 2009: rating of attributes in selection of firms.).

The article makes one other interesting point. As law departments in Asia become more common and more capable, complaints about external counsel lacking an understanding the business have dropped.