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CHICAGO � Corporate legal departments are starting to survey their own lawyers and company executives about the performance of outside law firms to keep better tabs on the relationships, said attorneys attending the Association of Corporate Counsel annual meeting in Chicago last week. Ullico Associate Inc. General Counsel Patrick McGlone said his insurance company for the first time this year sent a three-page survey to legal staff and executives, asking questions about a firm’s communications, timeliness, qualities and deficiencies. It has been following up with face-to-face meetings. The eight firms working with Ullico took the survey “very seriously” and were eager to see how they performed relative to the other firms, McGlone said. “It provided a platform to have a candid conversation about the relationships,” McGlone told attendees at a session on improving relations with outside counsel. Clearing the air More companies, especially those that are small and midsized, may be turning to a formal survey process as they seek to foster stronger ties and better communication with their law firms. Some larger companies already have processes to assess outside counsel on a regular basis, though they may not be as formal as a survey, said Michael Parham, an associate general counsel with Seattle-based RealNetworks Inc., who also spoke on the panel. Parham said his company tends to review outside firms in a meeting at the start of a new project to evaluate whether the relationship should go forward. “Responsiveness is everything,” Parham said. Steve Lauer, corporate counsel at Charlotte, N.C.-based Global Compliance Services Inc. said in his panel comments that he had recently come into contact with several companies that were either initiating such a survey process or had recently conducted their first survey. The survey process at Ullico, a Washington-based company with 285 employees, prompted discussion with one firm partner that in-house lawyers sensed had been slacking off in providing his attention to Ullico matters, McGlone said. The survey and follow-up meeting cleared the air and strengthened ties with the firm, he said. The process is also beneficial in giving executives of the company some say and ownership in the relationships with firms, McGlone said. He’s not certain that the survey will become an annual measure, but he said he expects it to be used again.

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