Instructing external legal resource: 5 questions to think about
Even when a business has an in-house legal team, there are times when instructing external legal resources—barristers, solicitors, or legal consultants—makes good sense.
And at such times, it makes even more sense to think carefully about the work that you’re asking the external provider to perform, and how you want them to go about it.
That’s because external legal resource isn’t cheap, and it’s all too easy to end up having paid out a lot of money for legal work that adds little value.
So here are five questions to think about when instructing external legal resource — questions that will help to ensure that you’re paying the right fee, for the right job.
1) What do we want to get out of the work?
This may sound a silly question, but it turns out to be vital. Think carefully beforehand about the help you require, and the form that you want that help to take.
For example, are you seeking an opinion? Are you asking for a service to be performed? Legal support in a specific area? Do you want to know what the law says, or do you want specific advice in the context of a specific situation or business issue?
The bottom line: left to their own devices, an external provider will do what they think you want—which won’t necessarily be what you do want, or necessarily cost the same as what you actually want. So eliminate that ambiguity.
2) How can we help the external provider to work more effectively?
Time costs money. And the time spent by an external provider will be more expensive than time incurred by your own staff—especially if the task that is being performed in-house is being performed by someone more junior.
So always look for ways so as to package up work so that as much legal ‘leg work’ as possible is performed in-house, by your people. Look at your own skills and resources, and minimise your external costs by making full use of them.
Such packaging of work is surprisingly straightforward—and can have a significant effect on the size of the eventual invoice.
3) How should we scope the work?
The short answer is ‘very carefully’. That said, this is a task that will have been made easier by thinking carefully through the previous two questions.
In other words, you know what you want, and you know how you can package and support that work so as to make best use of the external resource that you’re paying for.
So your scoping document will need to make this clear, as well as making explicit the form in which you want deliverables delivered. Put another way, if you want actionable advice, rather than a regurgitation of the law, make sure that this requirement is specified upfront.
Finally, make sure that you explicitly ask for a time sheet to be submitted along with the eventual invoice. When you’re paying for an external provider’s time, you want to know who spent that time, and how.
4) Who do we want working for us?
Remember, you’re the customer. So you’ve every right to be prescriptive in terms of the people who carry out the work that you’re instructing the external provider to perform for you.
In the case of a person who is too junior, not only might they know less than you regarding a particular issue, but also you’re likely to end up paying twice—once for them to do the work, and once for a partner or associate to review it.
Equally, if the job requires a bundle of documents to be prepared for a hearing, then this needs to be pushed down to a paralegal, and not be handled by an associate.
5) Can they quote a fixed price for the work?
Finally, ask the provider to provide a fixed-fee quotation.
Point out that you’ve been very prescriptive regarding the work to be performed, what you want by way of deliverables, and the help and support that you will provide. Point out, too, that there is considerable clarity and certainty regarding the seniority of the people who will be performing the work.
If the external provider still won’t provide a fixed-fee quotation, ask what further information or help you could provide so as to enable them to do so. Ask them to be clear, too, about any ‘out of scope’ costs that might worry them—these can always be treated as additional to the fixed fee quotation.
And if the work to be undertaken is large or complex, or the external provider is still reluctant to provide a fixed-fee quotation, consider breaking the job down into sections, and asking for fixed-fee quotations for each stage.
The bottom line
External legal resource isn’t cheap.
And the harsh reality is that it’s all too easy to spend money on external legal work that doesn’t seem like good value for money—it’s not actionable enough, it’s not quite the right work, or the resulting fee seems excessive.
Spend time upfront thinking about what exactly you’re looking for, and most problems can be sidestepped.
Next time you’re commissioning external legal resource, try it.
These steps will be taken by a good in-house lawyer whenever an external law firm is instructed. As such this is part of the service we provide our clients for whom we act as their in house lawyer on a part time basis, in situations where we instruct an external law firm for specialist advise or overflow work.
Please call us at any time to learn more.
Posted Monday, August 13th, 2018 by Warren RylandTweet
Other Articles In This Category
- Selling your business: getting the price you deserve
Take two businesses, of comparable size, revenues, and profitability. Why would one sell more quickly than the other—and for considerably more money? Here at... read more
26th of February 2019 by Warren Ryland
- IR35 for the private sector: six key questions answered
As we warned in our March 2018 blog, there was always a high probability that the IR35 reforms the government introduced to the public sector in April 2017 would be... read more
18th of January 2019 by Warren Ryland
- The hidden dangers of Christmas parties
It’s the season for Christmas parties. And, as an employer, you may well be holding one for your staff—a Christmas party is, after all, a popular way of... read more
3rd of December 2018 by Warren Ryland
- Managing external legal providers: 3 pointers to a better outcome
In an earlier blog, we looked at how best to instruct external legal providers—providers such as barristers, solicitors, or legal consultants. Why? Because... read more
5th of November 2018 by Warren Ryland
- Can your staff verbally modify your contracts?
It’s a common enough scenario. You have a contract with one of your key suppliers, and you—or one of your staff—agree over the phone with... read more
20th of October 2018 by Warren Ryland
- Funding Fair: from concept to commercial reality
The Legal Director is proud to be co-sponsor of the latest Informed Funding "Funding Fair - Funding for Deep Technology: from concept to commercial reality" on... read more
19th of October 2018 by Warren Ryland
- Funding your business: debt vs equity
The Legal Director is proud to be co-sponsor of the latest Informed Funding workshop on Wednesday 3 October from 12:00-13:30 hrs or 17:00-18:30 hrs. This... read more
4th of September 2018 by Warren Ryland
- Exit Planning and Growth Strategy Workshop
The Legal Director is proud to be co-sponsor of the latest Informed Funding workshop on Tuesday 9 October from 11:00-13:30 hrs or 14:30-17:00 hrs. This... read more
4th of September 2018 by Warren Ryland
- What does an Investor want to see in a Business Plan?
The Legal Director is proud to be co-sponsor of the latest Informed Funding 90-minute workshop on Wednesday 12 September from 10:30-1230 hrs or 14:00-15:30... read more
22nd of August 2018 by Warren Ryland
- Talk to a lawyer: the ROI of legal advice
What do legal and regulatory issues cost your business each year? And - perhaps more worryingly - what is the cost of those commercial and contractual disputes that... read more
22nd of June 2018 by Warren Ryland
- Planning an Exit Strategy to sell your business?
The Legal Director is proud to be co-sponsor of the latest Informed Funding workshop on Wed 4 July, where you'll be able to discuss with experts and other... read more
5th of June 2018 by Warren Ryland
- Is your business facilitating tax evasion?
Is your business facilitating tax evasion? Put like that, most of us would automatically answer ‘no’. But let’s re-phrase the question. Does your... read more
8th of May 2018 by Warren Ryland
- IR35 and the private sector: are changes on the way?
As the government considers extending to the private sector its public sector reforms of the rules relating to the engagement of contractors through so-called... read more
22nd of March 2018 by Warren Ryland
- GDPR: 3 practical questions facing businesses like yours
In just a few months—on May 25th—compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) becomes mandatory. The biggest change to data protection... read more
1st of March 2018 by Warren Ryland
- I'd like to work from home, says an employee. Now what?
Conversations about employees working from home were once very short. In those rare instances where employees did venture to enquire about the possibility, the... read more
8th of January 2018 by Warren Ryland
- Is a domain squatter set to steal your brand?
It’s fair to say that many businesses are unprepared for the new .uk Internet domain - which is unfortunate, as from June 2019, they could find that their... read more
5th of December 2017 by Warren Ryland
- Did you negotiate your last loan agreement - or just sign on the dotted line?
For businesses wanting to grow or invest, external finance can be an attractive option: access to the funds that they need, without equity dilution or... read more
2nd of November 2017 by Warren Ryland
- Protecting the value of your newly-acquired businesses can be a challenge
Buying a business is exhilarating. Hard work, to be sure - but undeniably exciting, and with a rich sense of the opportunities that lie ahead. So perhaps... read more
2nd of October 2017 by Warren Ryland
- GDPR. The clock is ticking: a tough new take on data protection is fast approaching
With effect from 25 May 2018—in other words, less than a year away—your business is exposed to a new regulatory regime backed by hefty fines. And by... read more
6th of September 2017 by Warren Ryland
- Persons of Significant Control: important changes to reporting requirements
It’s barely a year since the introduction of the PSC regime - and already, the compliance requirement has been tightened. And at a time when many businesses... read more
23rd of June 2017 by Warren Ryland
- Avoiding conflict when forming a business: probing questions for potential partners
Every year, several hundred thousand new businesses are created. In 2015, according to the Office for National Statistics, the total was 383,000—the highest... read more
28th of April 2017 by Warren Ryland
- Is your business at risk from the Uber decision? Why your self-employed contractors could really be employees
Fuelled by companies such as ride-hailing business Uber and personal courier firm Deliveroo, the so-called ‘gig economy’ is on the rise. So much so,... read more
12th of January 2017 by Warren Ryland
- The Legal Director - Commended for Innovation in the FT Innovative European Lawyers awards
Law firm The Legal Director (TLD) has been commended in the FT Innovative European Lawyers awards, which were announced at the beginning of this month. TLD ranked... read more
28th of October 2016 by Warren Ryland
- Debt versus Equity - Financing for SMEs
The need for additional finance is often the price of success for small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that are looking to grow. The question that faces the... read more
14th of October 2016 by Warren Ryland
- The deceptive complexity of the Modern Slavery Act
At the end of July, Prime Minister Theresa May launched a cabinet-level government taskforce to eradicate modern slavery in the UK. It was, she said, “one of... read more
31st of August 2016 by Warren Ryland
- How our clients will benefit from the Bar Council's escrow account
Outside the narrow realms of consumer technology, there’s often an inevitable trade-off between cost and quality. In other words, you can have something at... read more
7th of July 2016 by Warren Ryland
- As the net starts to close, the Bribery Act prosecutions begin
As we have written before, the Bribery Act 2010 is a law with undoubted teeth. Fines are potentially unlimited, and custodial sentences can be up to ten... read more
1st of May 2016 by Warren Ryland
- New rules on shareholder identification are now in force
New rules on shareholder identification are now in force - and yet many businesses aren’t aware of them. Does your business have corporate or nominee... read more
12th of April 2016 by Warren Ryland
- First SRA-regulated law firm signs up to Bar Council's escrow account
PRESS RELEASE: The Legal Director has become the first law firm regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to sign up to the Bar Council’s... read more
31st of March 2016 by Warren Ryland
- Trade marks: the 3 biggest mistakes to avoid
Wander around a supermarket, or browse the advertisements in newspapers and magazines, and you’ll see trade marks everywhere. And it’s likely, too, that... read more
29th of February 2016 by Warren Ryland
- Avoiding flexible working's hidden pitfalls
You don’t have to look too far to see that traditional modes of employment are increasingly giving way to more flexible working arrangements. Returnee... read more
9th of November 2015 by Warren Ryland
- Are you paying your workers the right amount of holiday pay?
A recent ruling by an Employment Appeal Tribunal is set to cause many businesses a headache. Quite an expensive headache, at that. Simply put, it means that... read more
15th of July 2015 by Warren Ryland
- The Bribery Act 2010: are you running a risk of breaking the law?
To see the difficulties that businesses can get into through bribery - or even allegations of bribery - look no further than the reputational damage suffered... read more
11th of June 2015 by Warren Ryland
- It's official: "Lawyers are not cost-effective"
Imagine, for a moment, that when faced with a serious illness, significant numbers of people took no action. And of those who did take action, around... read more
20th of January 2015 by Warren Ryland
- Could a Shareholder Agreement save your business?
Here at The Legal Director, we’ve recently come across a business where the two co-founders have fallen out -- one is now leaving, in order to set up on his... read more
1st of December 2014 by Warren Ryland
- The high-fee culture that's hobbling British business
Another week, and yet another critical item in the press on the cost of obtaining corporate legal advice. And to be sure, it’s certainly a fairly open goal at... read more
11th of November 2014 by Warren Ryland
- Is crowdfunding the answer to your business's financing challenge?
As the credit crunch and ensuing recession of 2008 began to bite, lending to businesses dried up. To their shock, even long-established, profitable businesses... read more
2nd of September 2014 by Warren Ryland
- Complying with the Data Protection Act: 3 business bear-traps awaiting the unwary
Visit the website of the Information Commissioner’s Office, and there’s an interesting section entitled ‘Enforcement’. In it, the... read more
1st of September 2014 by Warren Ryland
- What might a Legal Audit reveal about your business?
When we start working with a business we assess their existing legal arrangements to determine how these can be improved and aligned with commercial objectives. We... read more
9th of July 2014 by Warren Ryland