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For outside counsel of international supply chain company DHL Supply Chain Americas, life may feel a little different come the start of 2018. Especially if they haven’t been paying attention to the changes that general counsel Mark Smolik has made since he took over the fast-growing legal department eight years ago.

But the changes that Smolik is making (more on that below) should be less alarming to law firms and their management than the changes that he and other general counsel say they aren’t seeing from their outside counsel.

We spoke with several law department leaders about the advice they have for outside counsel, and the overwhelming theme was a desire for their outside firms to be more proactive—on everything from pitching for work and offering innovative solutions to simply asking their clients how the firms could be more effective. These GCs were absolute about the trend of more work becoming commoditized, more work going in-house and an overall shrinking of the pie for law firms. What they don’t want to do is figure out how to solve that problem for firms. But they will increasingly be proactive themselves when it comes to telling their outside counsel how they are performing.

Smolik joined a seven-member legal team when he came to DHL. Since then he has grown it to 58 lawyers and staff, all while reducing the overall legal spend for the company. (He declined to say how much.) Procurement is more involved in selecting the company’s outside counsel. The 2,200 commercial contracts that used to be farmed out to outside counsel are now handled internally, as is most of the company’s real estate and employment work.

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Gina Passarella Cipriani

Gina Passarella is editor-in-chief of The American Lawyer. She has covered the business of law for her entire career, first as a reporter and special projects editor with The Legal Intelligencer in Pennsylvania and then as senior editor for business of law in ALM's global newsroom. She took over as editor-in-chief of The American Lawyer in January 2017.

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