Pain of the panel review is just the start

Panel reviews elicit many opinions. General counsel get furious that law firms haven’t read the spec properly, while private practice lawyers and business development professionals complain that half the time clients aren’t sure what they’re really after.

As our main feature this week illustrates, these irritations haven’t stopped the trend of external adviser reviews: far from it. The number of beauty parades this year has mushroomed – from Siemens in January to Aviva just this month. Tenders are just the beginning though; the really interesting bit is what happens next. Once general counsel actually have their painfully-acquired panels in place, how do they manage the relationship?

This is the question we’ll be addressing over the next couple of months as we launch our series on the anatomy of panel reviews. We already have some pointers on the client experience through a couple of interesting recent surveys. An investigation of trends in the US conducted by Thomson Reuters Serengeti last year found – as you’d expect – that uniform engagement terms are a must. Furthermore, US-based GCs are now involved in the management of legal work, with written project plans, progress reports and so on. There has been a hugely increased take-up of electronic billing systems, but law firm extranets are falling out of favour; clients are now hosting their own systems that harvest data from external advisers and match them against project guidelines. In other words, service is beginning to be properly measured and quantified

However, The Lawyer’s In-House Attitudes Report, which surveyed 1,100 in-house lawyers in March this year, shows that many of the above have yet to be adopted wholesale in the UK. Here are just three surprising findings from the survey:

Two-thirds of in-house lawyers have no written evaluation procedure to measure performance; 

A third of in-house teams do not discuss performance at all with their external advisers;

Over 8 per cent of in-house teams do not have a system to capture performance data about the law firms they instruct.

It won’t stay this way for long. Once UK general counsel start adopting the measurements their US cousins take for granted, private practice won’t know what hit them.

For more details on The Lawyer’s In-house Attitudes Report, contact