It’s one thing to impose on law firms all kinds of requirements that aim to make them better integrated with the law department and more cost-effective (See my post of June 13, 2006 on designation of core staff; Aug. 22, 2006 on requiring project managers; June 15, 2006 about the use of lower-cost associates; and July 5, 2006 on interventions in law firm management generally.). It is quite another thing to bring the key lawyers together from your key law firms and talk through with them what you expect under what circumstances.
You might try to come to a mutual understanding with your key firms of when detailed legal research is needed, and how to communicate, budget and conduct it. You could set some parameters around oral advice, informal written advice such as e-mails, and formal memoranda of law. All of these topics further the goals of staff use and supplier development.
For more on management of core staff in law firms see my posts of 2005: Nov. 8 on the number of timekeepers on a matter; Sept. 5 on Citigroup’s views; Nov. 15 on timekeepers per firm; and Nov. 21 on staffing profiles; as well as March 28, 2006 about a rule of thumb of one lawyer and one paralegal tracking time; and June 13, 2006 about the vital role of key staff matter.