Guide to becoming a strategic counsel: Learning the art of engaging external solicitors

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Benjamin Brewster said: A lawyer starts life giving $500 worth of law for $5 and ends up giving $5 worth for $500. It is a sad indictment on certain elements of the legal profession that although Benjamin Brewster died in the 1880s, many clients in 2015 would still agree with his sentiments.

Too many times I have heard people bemoan lawyers' fees while at the same time complaining that there is no correlation between those fees and the value of the services received. This is also a perennial complaint of in-house counsel who brief out work to external solicitors. I recall one colleague stating that when she first received an invoice from an external legal firm she felt that she had been kicked hard in the solar plexus.

It would be all too easy to blame this impression of overreaching fees on greedy lawyers who try to 'milk' their clients and care little about providing valuable legal services. However, even though there are definitely some greedy lawyers in our fraternity, the concept of valuable legal services is multi-faceted and in many instances, fees charged by lawyers may indeed objectively reflect the value of the service given. The problem in these circumstances is that the value proposition is not clearly understood by the client.

In-house counsel therefore have an important role in assisting businesses to obtain valuable legal advice and services at a reasonable cost which at the same time is understood by the business to be relevant and appropriately costed.

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