Have you ever wondered why your clients prefer your law firm over others? Or perhaps what they particularly dislike about your own legal services? Our survey gauges the opinions of in-house counsel on their pet peeves with law firms, as well as what hot topics have them engaging with their own legal teams. Putro Harnowo reports

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low turnaround time and overpricing are the biggest turn-offs for in-house counsel in the region when dealing with their law firm counterparts, according to our survey tapping their top complaints. Poor quality of service, unmet expectations and poor communications are also among the top five grievances that make these clients unhappy.

Their views are what law firms would do well to take into consideration, and are contained in the latest Asia Business Law Journal survey to hear the real opinions of in-house counsel and better understand their expectations. The findings update from last year’s survey published in our September/October 2021 issue, which lamented pricing issues and poor quality as their top complaints.

On a positive note, emerging technologies have unlocked new opportunities for businesses worldwide, and in-house counsel increasingly see the potential for legaltech to make their lives easier. Our survey also gathers some strategies for optimising workloads in legal teams.

“The biggest legal challenge we face in our work is to ensure our business satisfies the increasingly complex compliance requirements imposed by different jurisdictions,” says Fan Linna, deputy head and general counsel of shipping finance at Bank of Communications Financial Leasing in Shanghai.

In view of this complexity, Fan sees the benefit of engaging those law firms that deliver fast turnaround, have a better understanding of the business, offer consistent quality of service, and that share newsletters and publications, particularly with legal updates in key jurisdictions where the company operates.

When dealing with the time-consuming process of dispute resolution, Satish Chopra, vice president at infrastructure concessions services provider Rohan Rajdeep Tollways in New Delhi, says law firms that can secure success at top speed are preferred.

As a business with operations across multiple states, “we require law firms who can support us on a day-to-day basis on issues in relation to our projects,” says Chopra. “An important aspect of our working relationships that we have with our law firms is to have a dedicated resource for fast turnaround time.”

Regular monitoring and sharing of information about regulations before they are signed into law are among the services that Maria Concepcion Simundac-Delos Santos, lead legal counsel at ING Bank in Manila, expects from law firms. Being aware of such upcoming changes, companies are able to give their input to regulators and anticipate potential impact.

“Cybersecurity and fintech are ever-changing landscapes,” says Simundac-Delos Santos. “It will be good if law firms can keep their clients up to date about the latest trends in the industry and their legal impacts.”

Quick and quality

Solving unprecedented problems in a timely fashion is the main task for which in-house counsel need outside assistance. However, among 76 respondents to our survey, more than half cited slow turnaround and pricing issues as the most common complaints, followed by poor quality of service, unmet expectations, and poor communications. When it comes to billing methods, the majority of in-house counsel preferred project-based fees and flat rates, rather than the conventional hourly rates.

To support the need for agile workflow and efficient output, our survey found that almost all in-house counsel have a positive view of legaltech. Almost half of the respondents (48%) said it was important or very important for law firms to utilise the latest legal technology, while a similar number (46%) thought it was moderately important. Five respondents said legaltech was only slightly important.

“Our biggest challenges are the tight timeline with the complexity of the transaction and the ever-changing requirements of authorities from multiple jurisdictions,” says Michelle Hung, general counsel and company secretary at COSCO Shipping Ports in Hong Kong.

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