22 ASIAN LEGAL BUSINESS – AUGUST 2023 WWW.LEGALBUSINESSONLINE.COM Image: afotostock/ As in-house legal teams grow increasingly sophisticated, they are beginning to demand more from their law firms. And while many law firms meet their standards, there are some that cause frustration due to issues with billing, lack of expertise and attentiveness, and occasional outright incompetence. ALB looks into what in-house counsel based in Asia value in their law firm partners, and what will break their trust once and for all. BY SARAH WONG In-house counsel keep a checklist when choosing external law firms to work with. With competition heating up amongst private practices, technical expertise is expected as a bare minimum. What really differentiates between the plethora of outside counsel, therefore, has become much more nuanced, especially when in-house legal departments are grappling with the dominant doctrine of “do more with less”. In a recent survey conducted by ALB among in-house counsel across major Asian jurisdictions, an overwhelming 99 percent of respondents prize lawyers who are not only stellar specialists in their field but also industry experts, able to provide additional value to the long-term viability of their businesses. In addition, nearly all respondents (95 percent) want transparent and predicable pricing systems provided by law firms. In-house counsel lament that issues such as duplication of items billed, discrepancies between the amount billed and the perceived legal value of the actual work done, and delayed out-ofpocket expenses are among issues that cause hassles. Law firms responsible for these difficulties are likely to be bearers of a black mark. At the end of the day, it is a sense of trust that solidifies a working relationship that is operating on good faith and mutual understanding between in-house counsel and their external legal advisers. The trust of in-house counsel, while hard to earn, can be easily lost. WORTH THEIR SALT Maria Concepcion Simundac-Delos Santos, lead legal counsel at ING Bank PhilCLIENT EXPERIENCE A QUESTION OF TRUST