The legal department is the client of external law firms, yet excelling in the delicate and important role that bridges the two is an art that requires considerable practice. Hang Dongxia, secretary to the board of directors at Shanghai Huarui bank, explains the right mindset for successfully managing and working with external lawyers
IN CLOSE TO FIVE YEARS of practice as a professional lawyer in a law firm, this author has interacted with different types of enterprises, such as state-owned construction companies, private fast-moving consumer goods chain stores, government departments, life insurance companies, etc., and their legal staff. I also worked as corporate counsel for nearly 17 years, co-operating with many domestic and foreign lawyers from the US, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and Australia, with the work covering both dispute resolution and investment/M&A.
I have co-operated with an even larger number of domestic law firms, working with red-circle firms, large local firms, boutique law firms, local one-person firms, etc., depending on the nature of the work, essentially covering all current major legal affairs. Based on these different perspectives and work, this author proposes to answer the question of “how to create a win-win situation with external lawyers”, from the perspective of corporate counsel, by an in-depth consideration and summary of this practical experience.
KNOW ONESELF, KNOW THEM
The first step in achieving a perfect match between corporate counsel and external lawyers is “knowing oneself and knowing them”, that is to say, minimising the information asymmetry between the parties.
For corporate counsel, “knowing oneself” is particularly reflected in the clarity of what one needs: What is the objective that the company wishes to achieve through the services provided by the external lawyers? What are the dilemmas and shortcomings that the company faces in this work or dispute? What are the resources, including a financial budget, work co-operation, etc., that the company can provide in order to achieve the objective or resolve the dispute? What internal decision-making procedure does the company need to complete to accomplish the task at hand?