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As one of the 25 GCs who signed the Open Letter last year to announce the GC Thought Leaders Experiment, I was very interested to read AdvanceLaw’s recent articles on law firm panels.  Given the conventional wisdom (including my own) that consolidating outside counsel into a panel of go-to law firms is the right way to go, I was surprised by the finding that panel firms tend to perform worse for clients than non-panel firms (and clients with panels don’t receive better service than clients without panels).  Here is the key graphic telling that story:

This graphic and related analysis are found here: Law Firm Panels: Are They Designed to Fail? and Law Firm Panels: Are Clients Demotivating Their Law Firms?. Like the authors of these articles, however, I am optimistic about panels, with the caveat that they must be created and managed correctly, which is of course easier said than done. The reason for my article is that I’ve just finished building out a law firm panel, and I’d like to share what I’ve learned.

By way of background, I came to Peabody (a Fortune 500 company headquartered in St. Louis) three years ago. Among my top priorities were to examine our law firm relationships and create a tight-knit panel of lead partners and firms that would understand our business, deliver unparalleled service, and collaborate with one another in Peabody’s best interests. While I had experience setting up panels (including at my last organization), I chose to partner closely with AdvanceLaw on this—both because of their expertise in law firm relationship management and because we share a philosophy on key priorities like diversity and innovation. (I was also able to leverage their core model—basically giving our law firms an even larger financial incentive to over-perform on service quality. In AdvanceLaw’s system, clients like us evaluate firm performance, and strong scores help firms win more work from other AdvanceLaw clients.)

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