Outside Counsel Guidelines are here to stay, but most firms cannot comply

Bellefield Systems and the Association of Legal Administrators (ALA) have announced the results of the 1st Annual Law Firm Leader Survey on Outside Counsel Guidelines, which is designed—for the first time ― to measure the impact of Outside Counsel Guidelines (OCG), e-billing and billing compliance on law firms.

198 law firms participated in the survey, including 20% of the Am Law 200. The data shows an industrywide disconnect impairing firms’ effective management of OCG.

The survey results identify that the majority of law firms (51%) do not have staff to effectively manage outside counsel guidelines. The improvement firms most desire, however, is not more staff but better technology in order to comply with outside counsel guidelines (45.07%). Today, the majority of firms leverage mainly email or filing in the DMS as a form of communicating guidelines to attorneys and require no acknowledgement receipt. In fact, 23% of firms have no process in place at all, and the majority of lawyers, industrywide, (56%) do not know what is in the guidelines.

Most responding firms report that OCG have made it more difficult to communicate with clients (40.25%), despite their intended use, which is to improve it. Even more firms report that they believe clients change the rules and guidelines without informing the firm (46.54%), and the majority of firms overall (63.52%) have pushed back on guidelines.

What is clear is that firms cannot sustain the strategy of writing off noncompliance.

The survey identifies key opportunities where law firms can seal disconnects and provides recommendations to help firms operationalize compliance.

Gabriela Isturiz, President of Bellefield, comments: “The operational and financial pain of outside counsel guidelines has been challenging firms for some time.  Firms have been needing this data to see where the disconnects are and how to solve them. We are thrilled by the overwhelming participation and response ― but even more so, we are honored and proud to deliver these insights firms so desperately need to make better business decisions. Outside Counsel Guidelines are here to stay ― we look forward to helping firms meet the challenge.”

Oliver Yandle, JD, CAE, Executive Director, for the Association of Legal Administrators, adds, “Compliance with Outside Counsel Guidelines has been a significant challenge for law firms for some time now, and the survey results bear this out. We hope the recommendations included in this report provide firms with the insights they need to better meet and exceed client expectations in this area.”

To request your copy of the Law Firm Leader Survey on Outside Counsel Guidelines, go here.