How to Impress In-House Counsel: Budgets

In the last blog, I shared some insights on communicating effectively with in-house counsel, which was provided by a panel at a Los Angeles Intellectual Property Law Association meeting. In the current blog I’ll impart the panel’s advice on cogent budgeting:

    • Do your best to provide an accurate budget. Remember, in-house counsel is accountable to its business units. If you lowball the budget and your work ends up costing much more, it will reflect poorly on in-house counsel. An unnecessarily high budget for proposed litigation is equally problematic because it may lead in-house counsel to advise its company to settle when litigation would have been more cost-effective.


    • Incorporate simply stated assumptions in your budget (e.g., “one partner and two associates will spend an average of 20 hours per week for two weeks”). If the assumptions change, it’s reasonable grounds for revising the budget.


    • For public companies, budgeting an average amount per month may be misleading if your workload will vary throughout the project. Say you’re proposing an average of $1 million per month, but during the first three months of the project, you only bill for $300,000 each. The company’s accounting department is not going to set aside the remaining $700,000 for each of those three months. Then, when your workload and your bills increase substantially toward the end of the project, they will have to scramble to find the money. A better alternative is to prepare a phased budget so in-house counsel and its business units know what bills it can expect as the project unfolds.


  • If you see that you will exceed your budget, let in-house counsel know early so they can make appropriate decisions.

More good advice from the panel on building relationships and working with in-house counsel will follow in the next blog post.

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