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Often, legal ops teams and vendors do not conceptualize their relationship as a partnership. Rather, they often think of their interaction simply as a business transaction between a service provider and a consumer. But there are a number of advantages to treating legal service vendors as partners. Let’s consider how doing so can benefit both sides.
Predictability of spending
The biggest drawback of taking on external counsel is the risk when it comes to spending. Projects can grow arms and legs, and being charged at hourly rates can lead to disturbingly high costs.
However, when vendors and legal ops teams are partners, they can work together to ensure there is clarity on costs for both sides. For one thing, if vendors grasp the opportunities involved in establishing a long-term relationship with you, then they won’t be trying to eke every dollar out of each project. Furthermore, the more that vendors come to understand your business and your requirements in general, the more they will be able to offer intelligent options such as alternative fee arrangements. Law firms bill by the hour largely because they don’t know how long a task is going to take – if they have greater understanding and security then they will be more likely to agree to fixed fees for certain projects.
Stability of workflow
Long-term relationships with vendors promote stability, which benefits both sides. On your part, you will come to know what to expect from your vendor – you’ll pick up more about what they can and can’t assist you with. On their side, vendors crave a regular workflow to help with long-term planning. Indeed, the more stable relationships are, the better each side can plan when it comes to, for example, their recruitment strategies.
Opportunity to share resources
If a partnership relationship develops between you and your legal vendors, it’s likely that you will be able to take advantage of opportunities to share resources. For example, you may be able to grant vendors access to your internal document management system. This will integrate them into your work and allow them to more easily coordinate with you, especially when it comes to issues like ensuring work is properly recorded and documents correctly stored. Of course, there will be confidentiality issues involved – it will take some effort working with your IT team to ensure that you are not giving away access to information that should not be leaving the firm. But if these hurdles can be surmounted, than an increased integration of this nature could be beneficial.
In return, if vendors see you as partners, they may be more likely to share things with you too, such as any internal continuing legal education (CLE). Many larger firms offer CLE to their own employees through internal presentations and so on, and may be happy to invite partner organizations with whom they have ongoing relationships to attend.
Better work quality
With greater stability in a relationship comes an improvement in the quality of work. Vendors come to understand exactly what you are looking for, and they can therefore better tailor their advice towards your specific needs. They’re also better able to know how and when going the extra mile will be particularly appreciated by you.
Sometimes you might only need a legal vendor for a one-off piece of work. But if it looks like you might be having extended contact with vendors, try and view your relationship as a partnership. Working as a team rather than simply as a client and provider will improve the situation for both of you.