Published on:

Three views of challenges for inside lawyers who purport to “manage” much more experienced outside counsel

This post scrapes the bottom of pessimism. Still, the mismatch that must happen between relatively uninformed lawyers and the savvy partners they presume to direct deserves comment. So did the Emperor’s clothes.

We make three assumptions about inside lawyers who have retained outside counsel to give advice in an area unfamiliar to the inside lawyer. At the most basic level we assume the lawyer can direct and assess the value of the service provided by the firm. If you are a novice, how can you? The blind lead the sighted (See my post of May 1, 2006: inexperienced inside lawyers can’t assess value of outside counsel.).

As for the next challenge, we assume that the inside lawyer, often a generalist in a small department swamped with demands, can make sound decisions on legal strategy. If you have never been down the tangled path, how can you foresee the full walk? The blind try to be farsighted.

Finally, mediating between the expert and experienced firm and the business executive who needs pragmatic legal counsel, the inside lawyer is assumed to be capable of adding value. It’s a big challenge to meld business complexity to legal ignorance. The blind lead the blind.

Even while I greatly honor and respect inside counsel, I wonder sometimes how they rationalize these challenges.