A hospital is best served when in-house counsel works closely with outside counsel, notes Jeffrey P. Rust, JD, partner with the Rivkin Radler law firm in Uniondale, NY.

In-house counsel can provide background information and assistance, as they are the most knowledgeable about the hospital’s structure, policies and procedures, culture, and personalities.

Rust advises following these tenets of effective legal project management:

1. Define the scope of the matter and set clear goals to measure success.

2. Agree on a budget, understanding that unforeseen events may require adjustment to the matter’s scope and budget.

3. Select the right legal team of both in-house and outside attorneys and legal assistants, each with the right level of knowledge and experience.

4. Assign specific tasks with due dates to each team member.

5. Communicate with the team through use of a secure shared site or other secure technology and scheduled status conferences.

6. Track all work against the budget regularly.

7. Analyze results with outside counsel after the matter concludes.

The reporting relationship also is important, says David S. Sokolow, JD, partner with the law firm of Fox Rothschild in Philadelphia.

“It is important to figure out who the outside lawyer reports to, who is hiring me, who is authorizing payment on my bills, who I’m supposed to send deliverables to. In many cases this will be the in-house counsel, but it also could be the CEO, the compliance officer, the board,” Sokolow says. “There also is the political issue of how this relates to what in-house counsel is doing and how much I should keep in-house counsel in the loop. There is no one answer that works for every organization, and I have to understand that up front so that I don’t exacerbate any existing issues.”

Access to other hospital departments also can be an issue, says Rodney K. Adams, JD, a healthcare attorney with the law firm of LeClairRyan in Richmond, VA.

“Some hospitals want us to go through in-house counsel for everything, like a records request. So we have to ask their counsel, who will then go to the department and make the request, then pass the records on to us,” Adams says. “Others will give us direct access, and that’s most efficient. When in-house counsel wants to stay so much in the loop that we’re not allowed to talk with other staff, that can get onerous sometimes.”