Law Firms & Legal Bills: Managing while Maintaining Law Firm Relationships

Corporate clients have a dueling focus when it comes to their relationship with law firms; on the one hand, as a paying customer (oftentimes, an overpaying customer) who expects to receive exemplary service for their money, and on the other, as a paying customer who desires to keep their law firms happy so that the firm will continue to provide exemplary service. This balancing act can be eased to equilibrium by focusing on traditional pillars of any relationship: communication, accountability, trust and respect.

The foundation of any relationship is an acknowledgement of one’s own requirements and expectations. When choosing a law firm, a client should openly communicate these needs and seek out law firms with parallel attributes while avoiding those that would not make a good match or which set off red flags. Communication continues to be at the forefront after a firm is chosen, with each party expressing their expectations of the other as the relationship moves forward.

An ideal resource for a client when conveying these expectations is the implementation of Outside Counsel Guidelines (OCGs). OCGs are a formal communication of a client’s expectations that helps hold all parties accountable to the same set of standards related to billing, matter management and corporate policies. OCGs are so critical to the client-law firm relationship that Quovant offers review of current billing guidelines or access to Quovant’s Best Practice Guidelines to all clients as a part of its standard implementation package.

Holding law firms accountable for non-compliance with these guidelines is another pivotal part of a healthy relationship; unfortunately, this can be a trigger for conflict. As anyone knows who has been in a relationship for more than a few days, conflicts in a relationship are unavoidable. However, enlisting the help of matter management company such as Quovant can alleviate any burden of conflict on the client by shifting the responsibility of compliance accountability to its team of trained lawyers and paralegals. This burden-shifting preserves the relationship between the client and law firm while concurrently protecting the client’s interests in the integrity of its OCGs.

Relationships sometimes need outside help, whether it be therapy, counseling, or even just a phone call to Mom because you know she’ll listen to you whine. Quovant’s Law Firm Support team is devoted to assisting law firms with questions about the OCGs, relaying the status of its invoices, and yes, even just being available to listen to some grumbling whether or not a solution is sought.

These relationship building blocks will result in perhaps the most important aspects in the client-law firm business dynamic – trust and respect. There can be no respect without clear communication of standards and accountability on behalf of the firm to follow through with its assurance of compliance with those clearly defined expectations. A happy law firm is one that can predict with certainty the consequences of its actions: non-compliance will always result in reduced compensation, while compliance will effect payment in full. A law firm that can trust and respect its client will do its utmost to provide exemplary services on their behalf, and that’s a relationship goal worth attaining.

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