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[Survey Report] The Obstacles to OCG Compliance: Why You Can’t Comply

Posted by Gaby Isturiz on December 6, 2019 at 11:49 AM


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The following is an excerpt from the report on the first Annual Law Firm Leader Survey on Outside Counsel Guidelines, first-of-its-kind survey regarding the impact of OCG on law firms. Download the full report here.

The vast majority of law firms (88.83%) report they now receive Outside Counsel Guidelines from clients, but law firms do not have the processes, staffing or technology to properly manage Outside Counsel Guidelines.

The obstacles to compliance begin at matter intake. Nearly a full quarter of all law firms have no process at all to review, analyze and document OCG as they come in, and the vast majority have only an ad hoc process to do so (62.98%), leaving just under a quarter of firms with a consistent process. This is likely because most firms simply do not have the staff necessary to handle client guidelines (51.54%).

The processes in place do not improve much from here. Of the 24% of firms that have a consistent process in place to review, analyze and document OCG, only 59% communicate the guidelines to partners-- no one communicates the guidelines to the billing attorney at all 20% of the time. With caveats in place, this means about 11% of the time there’s a reliable process and chain of command that can be drawn from client intake to the billing attorney.

This is a huge disconnect—which is why no one is surprised when the results show that a majority of lawyers do not know what is in the guidelines (56%). But this too requires further investigation as “awareness” and “action” are distinctly separate actions.

You Can’t Comply with What You Don’t Know

As noted above, while the majority of firms (59%) report communicating client guidelines to partners, the reliability and effectiveness of this communication is suspect at best.

The current technology of choice to communicate OCG to partners is that of an email summary (52.41%); however, almost all of the time the email summary does not require acknowledgement of its receipt (82.82%), and only half the time are lawyers monitored to ensure they follow the guidelines (55.83%). With the majority of firms reporting they do not have the staff necessary to handle client guidelines, compliance and enforcement (51.54%) and lawyers still believing the guidelines mostly apply to the billing process and “unrelated” to them, leaving the effectiveness of monitoring dubious.

What can be said with certainty in about a quarter of instances (23%), is that a line can be drawn between an email summary sent to a billing attorney, an affirmation of receipt, and enforcement of the guidelines.

On the other end of the spectrum, about 24% of firms leverage the firms’ DMS or intranet as the technology of choice to communicate OCG -- with the “hope” lawyers look at it. Shockingly, a full additional 23% of firms leverage no technology at all and do not communicate outside counsel guidelines to attorneys at all.

In addition to a lack of staffing to handle client guidelines, the top compliance challenge for the majority of firms is that OCG are simply too complex (66.04%), and nearly half report that they do not reach them as they are simply too long with too much info (43.4%).

How has your firm addressed the obstacles mentioned above? Share your comments below. 2019 Law Firm Leader Survey on Outside Counsel Guidelines - Survey Report

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Topics: outside counsel guidelines

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