Lawyers have a reputation for being expensive (some more than others!) so businesses often, understandably, focus on how to limit their legal spend. Less thought is given to ensuring that the expertise (and hence legal spend) is directed where it’s really needed and in the most efficient way.
There are some easy ways for businesses to save money on lawyers, and make the most of their lawyers. Several of the tips below could save your time too.
Whether you’re instructing a lawyer on a contract, dispute or business transaction, they will ask for the background information. Without it, they can only give generic and high-level input which isn’t value for money in anyone’s book. So, it makes sense to pull all of this information together and send it to them at the very start. Explaining the commercial drivers, strategic importance and the parties’ bargaining power will help too – without this crucial context, the lawyer only has a partial view, and may be missing key dynamics which could heavily shape their advice.
Heads of Terms
Trading drafts between one party and the other can be minimised by agreeing key commercials upfront. There is no sense in one side’s lawyer amending a clause for the other side’s lawyer to then change it back. Agreeing heads of terms (marked non-legally binding and subject to contract) is a good way to save everyone’s time and money. This can be agreed in principle before any lawyers are involved if that’s your preference. Do bear in mind though that a good lawyer will often raise commercial and legal points which could materially shape your position in the heads of terms; they are likely to raise a few things no-one’s thought of (after all that’s the job!). On that basis, involving lawyers in the heads of terms is arguably one of the most worthwhile areas to focus legal spend.
A balanced start
It’s not uncommon for the first draft of a contract to be heavily weighted in favour of one party. This can lead to needless rounds of negotiation just to arrive at a sensible starting point. A good way of reducing legal spend is by both sides (and their respective lawyers) agreeing to start off with a balanced document (that ideally will reflect any Heads of Terms). This approach saves time, narrows the issues down to the key commercial points and means that lawyers’ time is spent on negotiating those key issues.
Roles, responsibilities & process maps
For complex collaborations and process heavy transactions, consider preparing a table charting each parties’ roles and responsibilities and a process map. This can greatly aid the lawyer’s (and everyone’s) understanding of key obligations which will result in a more informed contract and fewer questions. It can also serve as a useful internal tool once the contract is live, reducing the chance of a post contract dispute (where it’s common for one party to have wrongly assumed the other party will take responsibility for something).
Be strategic with the Schedules
It’s sometimes better to avoid having a lawyer draft the schedules. Ideally the internal subject matter expert should be given the responsibility for producing the first draft of the relevant schedule. For example, when procuring IT services, the IT manager could draft the specification detailing the services required, and in a sales contract, the sales team could prepare the charges schedule since they negotiated the price and related terms.
Dividing the contract up into legal, commercial and operational areas, ensures the right people have input into the right areas. Relying on the lawyer to do everything can often be more expensive and even risky as the lawyer has to draw the information from the relevant staff and won’t be the subject matter expert. Empowering sales/technical teams to prepare a first draft of the schedules will save time and money and should make for a better end result.
Lawyers can then review and tweak the schedules as necessary, adding in for example, relevant terms and conditions to protect the business and ensure the language in the schedules is tightly drafted to avoid future misunderstandings.
Internal input & decision makers
The lawyer may well require input from other members of staff (such as when reviewing the schedules as per point 4). Consider connecting them directly to relevant team members at the start of the contractual process. It will save them coming to you each time and streamline the process. For example, where sign off will be required from members of the executive team (e.g. CFO for payment terms), flag this at the outset and put the lawyer in direct contact. Failing to involve the decision makers at the right time, can significantly lengthen and protract the process potentially requiring parties to revisit points that everyone thought had already been agreed.
Worthwhile noting that inhouse lawyers (including flexible ones, like us) are typically more integrated into the business than external lawyers can be, and often have well established relationships with key staff – whereas external law firms will typically be working with a single point of contact within the business.
If possible, have an idea from the start what your fall back positions are and where you expect the points to land. You could front load this into your initial calls with the lawyer so they can factor this into the initial draft and, should you wish them to, can run with the negotiations requiring only minimal input from you. This approach reduces back and forth.
Is one side doing all the legwork?
There is some legal work on contracts that either party can do (e.g. accepting changes and resolving comments, adding in agreed drafting, preparing the final version of the contract etc). However, often this work isn’t equally divided between the lawyers on each side which can be a strategic move by one party to save on legal costs. Sometimes a party with limited bargaining power is happy to absorb this to get the contract over the line but ensuring the work is divided more or less equally is an easy way to reduce your own legal spend.
Streamline the sign off process
Be clear what the sign off process will be and how much input from the lawyer is required. Your lawyer can help by preparing a contract summary to be sent to the decision makers for sign-off, while the final I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed.
At My Inhouse Lawyer, we have all worked at senior levels in business and we understand the challenges involved in the contracts process. We are naturally inclined to look for ways to be more efficient and cost effective and the My Inhouse Lawyer model is set up on this basis – we do not have billing targets and are incentivised to focus on quality of service and value for money. In short, we get our satisfaction from your satisfaction, and we understand that cost effectiveness inevitably plays a big part in this.
Written Kate Fazakerley
Principal at My Inhouse Lawyer
One of our values (Growth) is, in many ways, all about cultivating a growth mindset. We are passionate about learning, improving and evolving. We learn from each other, use the best know-how tools in the market and constantly look for ways to simplify. Lawskool is our way of sharing with you. It isn’t intended to be legal advice, rather to enlighten you to make smart business decisions day to day with the benefit of some of our insight. We hope you enjoy the experience. There are some really good ideas and tips coming from some of the best inhouse lawyers. Easy to read and practical. If there’s something you’d like us to write about or some feedback you wish to share, feel free to drop us a note. Equally, if it’s legal advice you’re after, then just give us a call on 0207 939 3959.
How it works
It starts with a conversation about you. What you want and the experience you’re looking for
We design something that works for you whether it’s monthly, flex, solo, multi-team or includes legal tech
We use Workplans to map out the work to be done and when. We are responsive and transparent
Freedom to choose & change
A responsive inhouse experience delivered via a rolling monthly engagement that can be scaled up or down by you. Monthly Workplans capture scope, timings and budget for transparency and control
A more reactive yet still responsive inhouse experience for legal and compliance needs as they arise. Our Workplans capture scope, timings and budget putting you in control
For those one-off projects such as M&A or compliance yet delivered the My Inhouse Lawyer way. We agree scope, timings and budget before each piece of work begins