Dentons Launches Unit Staffed by Ex-General Counsel (Updated)

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By Yin Wilczek

Global law firm Dentons has launched a consulting unit staffed with more than 50 former general counsel across the world to advise in-house legal departments.

The unit provides services such as managing outside-counsel relations, using new technologies, and coaching and mentoring for new in-house attorneys. It’s the first of its kind for a law firm, a Dentons spokeswoman told Bloomberg Law Nov. 17.

“We do believe that Nextlaw In-House Solutions is new for a law firm,” she said in an email. “The key differentiator is that we have inside Dentons and our global team of 50+ former in-house counsel the voice of the client, and an understanding based on their real-life experiences of the complex challenges confronting in-house counsel.”

In-house departments need more than just advice from law firms, Dentons Global Chair Joe Andrew said in a Nov. 15 release. “They need someone who understands the pressures they are under, because they have been in the same situations, and can provide guidance on how to manage those pressures.”

The consultancy is a “further step” in Dentons’ bid to reinvent the legal profession, according to the release.

Evolving Profession

The move comes during a period of restructuring for the legal profession, which has been buffeted by corporate efforts to lower the costs of legal services, both in-house and from law firms. Many companies are looking to pare down the number of law firms they retain, while a Bloomberg Law/Buying Legal Council survey released earlier this year found that the use of requests for proposal and alternative fee arrangements to procure legal services will rise significantly in the future.

Other legal consulting services also hire former in-house attorneys. However, Dentons, the largest law firm in the world in terms of attorney numbers, has a significant global presence, with lawyers spread out over 60 countries.

“I’m pleased to see others enter the field as it will help educate and make clients more aware of this type of consultancy,” Bob Barker, managing partner of executive search firm BarkerGilmore LLC, told Bloomberg Law in an email. Companies are under pressure to reduce costs and improve quality, while trying to build environments that foster business growth, he said.

BarkerGilmore, whose services include in-house attorney advising and coaching, previously announced that several former in-house counsel have joined its ranks, including Maureen Brundage, the former executive vice president and general counsel of Chubb Corp.

(Updated to include Dentons spokeswoman’s comments in third paragraph.)

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