General counsel are finding themselves more and more between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Not the usual rock and hard place of complex legal matters, where they are dealing with high stakes litigation, navigating increasingly difficult regulatory issues, and assuming more responsibility and accountability for compliance requirements and SEC matters. On the legal side of the pressure cooker – the side on which most general counsel are relatively comfortable – it’s business as usual.
But on the business side of the legal function is another rock and hard place. The rock includes overall legal costs, law firm fees and expenses, the managing of law firm relationships, and ensuring premier legal services to the corporation. The hard place is increasing corporate scrutiny of the way the law department manages the business of law. Pressure has been increasing during the past few years – pressure from the CEO, the CFO and business-unit clients, all clamoring for legal cost control, predictability of legal fees and, of course, reduced legal expenses. This pressure and scrutiny now have reached a point where corporations are asking their global purchasing functions to take an increasingly prominent role in securing legal services, using sophisticated purchasing techniques to do so.