Without a doubt the media sector has been hit harder than any other by the dotcom revolution. The recent contradictory US and UK rulings on whether an internet service provider (ISP) is a publisher or message carrier illustrates the need for external advisers to be able to handle the shifting and often inconsistent positions in this area of law.
Some companies rely entirely on the expertise of the in-house legal team, particularly for intellectual property work, with external firms employed for specific issues, an objective interpretation and second opinions.
Although in-house departments in media companies outsource far less work than many other sectors, they themselves are on a steep learning curve, adjusting to the processes of government and lobbying.
When work is passed to external lawyers the most important factor is knowledge and understanding of a business’ core values.
Few in the sector choose firms by formal methods, relying on reputation, past experience, established relationships and word of mouth. Cost is important but few companies employ panel reviews or beauty parades.
And despite the competitive nature of the industry, many companies have no trouble instructing a rival’s firm.
Given the changing nature of the sector, an established reputation and an ability to adapt are perhaps the most important elements an in-house team looks at when choosing an external firm.