6 Value Adds To Help In-house Teams Maximize Their Firm Relationships

Articulating the value that legal delivers to the business is very hard to do.   

Can firm panels help?

After seeing a recent uptick in panel RFPs on the PERSUIT platform, we invited a small group of industry leaders to share the “why” and “how” behind their use of firm panels (you can find the webinar replay here).

In short, formalizing key firm relationships with a panel arrangement sends the message to firms that the relationship is important. That incentivizes firms to bring their best to the table. 

As Suki Ritchie, Legal Operations Manager at Anglo American shared: 

“We're looking to our firms to help us articulate the value that we're delivering to the business. We’re working collaboratively with our firms to define that value and, by reference to the cost of the legal services that they're procuring, we can tell a really interesting story to the wider business about how we're developing that relationship and building increasing value by investing in it over a period of time.”


Here are some of the innovative value adds that top in-house teams are seeing from their panel firms.

Note: The webinar replay is available in PERSUIT’s resources area. You can watch the full video here.

6 Innovative Value Adds to Ask From Your Panel Firms

1. Using volume-based discounts to unlock new services or initiatives

Suki shared that her team negotiates to unlock specific kinds of services or initiatives based on when their team hits a certain level of spend with a particular panel firm.

If they hit “X” dollars of fees in a year, they would effectively bank a volume-based discount credit against those fees that they can then use to forward a new initiative or project. For example, this could be a project on contract review, digitalization, or templatization — any type of new innovation that will help their team move forward as a function in a particular area.

This also helps strengthen the firm/in-house team relationship by providing the opportunity to work on new types of matters together and giving the firm exposure to other areas of the business.  

2. Horizon scanning

Along with managing the company’s portfolio of risk, GCs are increasingly being asked to fill the role of strategic advisor to the business — scanning the horizon for potential issues and opportunities and helping to proactively plan for them. 

Adrienne Johannes, Head of Client Development at Hogan Lovells, added that her firm is often called upon to fill gaps in strategic advisory and horizon spotting by offering training and thought leadership.  

With exposure to various clients across their practice — including all of the challenges, risks, and solutions that companies similar to a particular client are facing — they are well positioned to flag issues that in-house teams may not be aware of and to proffer new and creative solutions. 


3. Forwarding DEI objectives

Adrienne also shared some of the ways that Hogan Lovells is helping their clients forward their diversity objectives. 

“We have different expectations set up with different clients, whether it's making serious investments in terms of promoting the careers of our diverse lawyers, helping our clients execute an internal diversity summit, or setting metrics of how we staff our matters with our diverse attorneys and trying to improve those from year to year.”

4. Peer networking

Hogan Lovells' clients also sometimes request help in networking with peers in the same industry. 

Their firm is uniquely positioned to provide opportunities through events or otherwise to foster discussions among like-minded clients and forward community towards common ends. 

5. Reverse secondments

We’re all familiar with secondments, where an outside lawyer is contracted to work alongside an in-house team to fill specific gaps in capacity or expertise. 

In a reverse secondment, an organization’s outside firm provides a seat for a member of their in-house team to gain experience with different elements of practice or particular areas of practice. This serves to both forward the knowledge and expertise of the in-house team, while also strengthening the firm/in-house relationship.  

6. Thought leadership

As John Bennett, Founder and CEO of Melius Law shared, he’s recently been working with panel firms to collaborate together on thought leadership endeavours, for example around a particular regulatory change.

Panel firms convene together in a session to hear directly from the business to understand their strategy and challenges, ask questions, and find ways that the panel — as a collective — can deliver better outcomes for the client. As John further explained:

“Getting the law firms to work together is actually quite good in the spirit of collaboration. Get them in to listen to the business and to ask questions and overcome that hurdle of what it is that you're trying to do. How might you as a panel, as a collective, deliver better outcomes for us as a client? I think it's all part of trying to create that more collaborative atmosphere, which is very much an extension of our in-house legal team. Sometimes it doesn't work by the way, but it's it's all good in terms of breaking down those barriers.”


How to Get the Right Value Adds From Your Firms

Every in-house team has different capabilities and needs. As they look to provide a continuum of legal support to their organization together with their panel firms, the value adds that firms provide will look different for every organization. 

As Novartis’s Director of Global Procurement, Adrienne Fox, shared, firms can play a key role in helping in-house teams understand the best ways their firms can contribute with specific value adds:

“I say to any firm out there, bring your expertise forward. Don't wait to be asked for it, because that's one of the challenges. If their internal team is small, they don't have the time to really focus on what they need from you. They don't know all of your expertise and what you can really add value.”


Finally, as John explained, in many organizations, there is a flurry of activity and back and forth as panels are set. At the conclusion, it’s treated as the end of the relationship, rather than just the first step in growing this partnership.

Panels have the potential to add value in endless ways. But both parties must be genuinely committed to the partnership and dedicated to continued communication and collaboration to grow and mutually benefit from the relationship.

A full replay of the 60-minute webinar is available for free in our resources area.

Marie Sotelo

Content Marketing Manager, PERSUIT