What do your corporate clients want other than good results?  Actually, it is easier for me to answer what they don’t want. I know from my own experience and from talking to in-house lawyers that more than anything else, they do not want surprises. How do you avoid them? Put simply, developing a plan and budget at the beginning of a project and keeping the in-house counsel apprised of changes is the best thing to do to avoid surprises.

The effectiveness of this approach was confirmed in a summary of a webinar "Managing Outside Counsel Getting Off on the Right Foot — and Staying in Step" presented by the Association of Corporate Counsel a couple of years ago. 
 
I was intrigued because I worked with one of the participants in the webinar and utilized some of the thoughts expressed in the webinar. The first suggestion is to prepare a budget. I frequently prepared both a plan and a budget because I knew my competitors did not prepare one. The synopsis suggests breaking down the budget by tasks. One way you can do this is to use a modified version of the ABA’s Uniform Task-Based Management System. It will help you identify the potential tasks. I recommend you identify both the lawyers and staff in your firm who will be working on the matter and the client resources you will need. 
 
The second suggestion is to track actual costs and compare those costs to the budget. A budget is of little value if it is set aside as soon as work on the matter begins. Once again, You can likely set yourself apart by paying close attention to what is happening and identifying when something changes and letting the in-house lawyer know right away. 
 
If you are like me, you hate preparing budgets and plans because of the time it takes and because of the uncertainty. I did it and you should also because your clients value it and it will give you the opportunity to distinguish yourself.