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What PayPal’s director of legal wants from external providers

Award-winning financial services lawyer Elizabeth Briggs says that strong soft skills are essential for any providers on her company’s legal services panel.

user iconMalavika Santhebennur 21 May 2024 Big Law
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Ahead of the Partner Summit 2024, Briggs said external firms should be empathic and compassionate with general counsel when managing significant matters such as litigation in the financial services space.

“Strong technical expertise is vital, but I’m also looking for very strong soft skills,” Briggs told Lawyers Weekly.

In-house lawyers consistently work at high capacity with limited resources and, as such, are frequently under pressure.


“Partners and senior associates who interact with us in an understanding way when we’re operating in that high-pressure environment can diffuse the stress out of the situation for everyone,” Briggs said.

Some law firms have been bolstering their lawyers’ soft skills in the last couple of years. Briggs said that a firm on PayPal’s external panel has trained psychologists on their staff to help manage mental health issues like depression and anxiety.

“I know that because they’ve offered that training to my team as well, which I’ve really valued because these issues are front of mind for us,” Briggs said.

Her comments preceded the first Partner Summit in June, where she and a panel of speakers will unpack what general counsel are looking for in their external law firm providers and how law firms can bill in-house legal teams appropriately and consider alternative and innovative fee arrangements.

Budget visibility is a serious issue

PayPal’s in-house team is charged hourly or on a fixed rate by external providers, depending on the nature of the matter.

The biggest pain point for general counsel is a lack of visibility on billing by law firms, Briggs mused, particularly because in-house legal teams are required to manage and adhere to a budget.

General counsel also requires accurate estimates of costs without any surprises and advanced warning if costs are going to exceed those estimates.

“If we receive an invoice that is significantly in excess of an estimate without prior warning, it creates internal challenges for general counsel,” Briggs said.

“I think it’s about being aware of what’s being billed and making sure that you’re communicating that ahead of sending an invoice.”

She requires her law firms to send their work-in-progress and unbilled amounts every month before billing and tracking them against the estimates that they provide.

Due diligence around data

Data security is another area of focus for Briggs, particularly in relation to how firms are holding and protecting her organisation’s data.

“I think about that a lot,” she said.

She and her team undertake extensive due diligence when they appoint a new firm onto their panel, ranging from how they screen their employees to how they hold and protect their data.

The team requires the law firm to conduct annual reviews on data security arrangements, Briggs said.

“I want firms to communicate if there has been a breach of data or any other issue relating to data security,” she said.

“That way, we can figure out our response to the situation. Even an hour can make a difference if there has been a significant data breach.”

She encouraged law firms to implement processes that enable them to monitor data on an ongoing basis, identify a breach, and communicate it immediately to impacted clients.

Top tips for becoming external firm of choice

Developing an interest in an organisation and being willing to become a genuine partner with general counsel could help law firms secure a place in their external panel, Briggs said.

“For example, we recently appointed a new firm to our panel which forged a relationship with me over a number of years and showed a keen interest in my business and its objectives,” she said.

“They came to me with interesting ideas and insights into my industry and outlined how that might impact my business, without any guarantee that they would be appointed onto my panel.

“When you’ve got a partner who believes in what you’re doing as much as you do, you want to use that firm all the time.”

To hear more from Elizabeth Briggs about what general counsel look for in external law firms, come along to the Partner Summit 2024.

It will be held on Thursday, 20 June 2024, at The Star, Sydney.

Click here to buy tickets and don’t miss out!

For more information, including agenda and speakers, click here.

This summit is produced by Captivate Events. If you need help planning your next event, email director Jim Hall at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..