Why SEAL: Building and Managing an Outside Counsel Panel

Jolie Lin

1. Streamlined Selection Process: Having a pre-vetted panel streamlines the process of engaging legal counsel. When a legal need arises, the organization can quickly and efficiently select from a pool of trusted advisors without undergoing the time-consuming and potentially costly process of searching for and vetting new counsel each time.

2. Consistency in Legal Service: A panel ensures consistency in the quality of legal services. The members of the panel are familiar with the organization's business, values, and legal needs, which leads to more cohesive and effective legal advice and representation.

3. Enhanced Risk Management: A pre-vetted panel allows for better risk management. The panel members understand the organization's risk profile and can provide more tailored advice to mitigate legal risks proactively.

4. Cost-Effective Relationships: Establishing long-term relationships with a panel of outside counsel can be more cost-effective. It allows for the negotiation of more favorable billing arrangements and can reduce legal costs in the long run compared to engaging different lawyers for each matter.

5. Diverse Expertise and Specialization: A panel can be composed of lawyers with varying specialties and backgrounds, providing a broad spectrum of expertise. This diversity is invaluable in handling complex, multifaceted legal issues that require specialized knowledge.

6. Improved Legal Strategies: Regular interaction with a consistent group of legal professionals fosters deeper understanding and strategic alignment. The panel can work collaboratively with the in-house team to develop more effective legal strategies that are aligned with the organization's overall objectives.

7. Faster Response Time: In urgent legal matters, having a pre-vetted panel means the organization can mobilize legal assistance quickly, as the panel members are already familiar with the company and its legal framework.

8. Customization and Flexibility: An outside counsel panel can be tailored to the specific needs of the organization, ensuring that all legal aspects are covered. This flexibility is crucial in adapting to changes in the business environment or legal landscape.

9. Knowledge Sharing and Training: Panel members can serve as valuable resources for in-house teams, offering training and sharing knowledge that enhances the overall legal acumen within the organization.

10. Building Long-Term Relationships: Establishing a panel fosters long-term relationships with external lawyers, leading to a deeper understanding of the organization’s business and legal needs. This familiarity can enhance the quality of legal advice and advocacy.

In essence, building an Outside Counsel Panel is a strategic approach that enhances legal preparedness, fosters consistency and quality in legal services, and aligns external legal expertise with the organization's goals and risk profile. It's a proactive measure that can significantly contribute to the overall effectiveness and efficiency of an organization's legal function.

In the absence of a well-organized Outside Counsel Panel, an organization risks.

 •  Time-Consuming Vetting Process: Each time a new legal issue arises, the organization must spend time and resources to find and vet appropriate counsel, delaying legal responses and potentially impacting business operations.

 • Inconsistency in Legal Advice: Working with different lawyers for various issues can lead to inconsistent legal advice, as each new lawyer may not be fully aware of the organization’s history, policies, or business strategies.

 • Higher Costs: Without established relationships and negotiated rates, the organization might face higher legal fees. Ad-hoc engagements often don’t benefit from the cost efficiencies of long-term partnerships.

 • Risk of Misalignment: New lawyers may not fully understand the organization's risk profile, leading to advice that may not align with its risk management strategies or business objectives.

 • Loss of Strategic Legal Planning: Without a panel, the organization misses out on the opportunity to develop comprehensive, long-term legal strategies. Ad-hoc counsel typically focuses on immediate issues rather than long-term legal planning and alignment with business goals.