Legal analytics can greatly enhance the way legal departments manage law firm panels in the context of hiring local counsel, and can help in-house counsel avoid the unnecessary risk of engaging inexperienced law firms. We are thrilled to share Jeff Cox’s latest ACC Docket article, Vetting Local Counsel with Legal Analytics, which discusses the importance of using legal analytics to conduct due diligence on local counsel before hiring them. Jeff’s article details practical ways in which legal operations can quickly obtain the initial scorecards they need on local counsel and two golden rules to follow before proceeding with an engagement.
Here below is an excerpt from the introduction of Jeff’s article:
In the legal operations world, proactively managing and curating a list of panel firms approved for engagements can be one of the most important compliance functions for legal departments, especially those in highly regulated industries. From a risk perspective, it’s critical for legal departments to ensure they’re not hiring and paying law firms connected to international terrorism or money laundering, so developing a well-formulated and vetted panel capable of handling matters the company may face is a pivotal function.
But as Murphy’s Law would have it, inevitably, legal operations will face legitimate needs to hire non-panel firms on a one-off basis, and quite commonly as local counsel to assist with litigation in a jurisdiction where their panel firms don’t have a presence. Legal ops are then presented with the all-important question of how should local counsel from Phoenix, Paris, or London — or wherever necessary — be properly vetted?
Why hiring local counsel matters
For legal ops to conduct appropriate due diligence on local counsel, it’s important to first have a basic understanding of why hiring local counsel is necessary. Knowing the law is one thing, but understanding local customs is another entirely. The most knowledgeable lawyers in the country can lose a case if they unwittingly enter a hostile forum without assistance or lack a proper command of local rules. This is where working with local counsel helps.
First and foremost, local counsel can act as a sponsor for special or pro hac vice admission for lead counsel on a case. This is an important hurdle to clear at the outset of any case and having a contact through local counsel can expedite the process. Local counsel also understand the local court rules and customs. A client may have the best lawyer in the country for the type of law involved, but if he or she is unfamiliar with the local forum’s rules and particularities, they may find themselves stuck behind multiple layers of frustrating red tape.
Moreover, local counsel can help lead attorneys avoid the risk of being “hometowned” or “homecooked.” In other words, local counsel serves as a known quantity in the local legal community. They have likely appeared in front of the judge in your case and may also know the judge and even the opposing counsel personally from local bar association events and conferences.
While white shoe firms bring the prestige and specialization, local counsel bring the street smarts. Not only do they understand the key decision-makers in cases, the local etiquette, and the procedural hurdles to clear, but local counsel also know how to think, act, and speak like locals — often key to winning over judges and juries.
Conducting due diligence with legal analytics
Once local counsel has been initially selected by in-house counsel or the panel firm managing the litigation, legal ops can then quickly conduct basic due diligence using legal analytics to vet local counsel’s credibility and experience.
First, analytics can reveal the number of cases local counsel has handled (both individual attorneys and their law firms). While not a perfect measure of capability, the volume of cases local counsel has handled will illustrate their general experience and may raise red flags where attorneys and firms have little to no experience in a particular jurisdiction.
You can read the full article here on ACC Docket.