Opportunity Missed?

There’s an article today in the ABA Journal regarding a survey of the 50 largest law firms in the U.S. and their use of outsourced legal services.

The only eye-popping numbers you’ll see in the survey results, however, are that 83% of the law firms surveyed declined to participate. The surveyors cite ethical and proprietary business concerns about law firms admitting the use of contract or outsourced attorneys, but in reality this is the fine line firms feel they must walk concerning their image. To be sure, Big Law has taken its lumps in the press during the last couple of years and they probably don’t see much that can be gained by participating in a survey like this.

But here’s what we’ve been hearing and seeing in meeting after meeting with hundreds of corporate legal departments in recent months: 1) they have demanded that their law firms outsource work like e-discovery, due diligence, contracts, patents and many other labor-intensive matters, or 2) they have partnered with law firms who have proactively brought outsourced solutions to them and ended relationships with law firms that haven’t been so forward-thinking.

It's also worth mentioning that we’ve also met and worked with a large number of top law firms in the last year, and call several of the AmLaw 100 some of our best clients -- and a handful have been with us for nearly a decade.

So while the survey results might not be that surprising, it does seem like an opportunity lost for firms who are constantly trying to gain market share and differentiate for their competition. Orrick, for one, has been very outspoken on their plans to utilize contract attorneys. While its “associate track” model is still in its early stages, it appears a promising – and differentiating – model that speaks not only to the needs of clients, but to the ever-changing needs of the attorney workforce.

At some point in the not-too-distant-future, none of this will be an issue... it will simply be part of the business that large chunks of legal work are outsourced (even though that’s the case already -- but shhhhh).
 

Podcast: How A Legal Department Can Save 20%

Jane AllenJane Allen, Counsel On Call's president & founder, will appear on LegalTalk Network's In-House Legal podcast next Tuesday, Feb. 24, with host Paul Boynton. The topic: 'How in-house departments can save 20%.'

The show can be heard and/or downloaded (free) by visiting LTN's website or on iTunes by searching for 'in-house legal' starting on Tuesday. 

Here's a summarized excerpt from a question about the common reaction from in-house clients when learning that significant budget cuts need to made:

"Often the first reaction involves gut-wrenching thoughts about cutting staff and getting rid of outside counsel. We like to sit down and walk through the ways the 10-20% savings can be achieved without making wholesale changes to the department ... There is always going to be work that should be sent to outside counsel. There is always work that should be done by in-house attorneys. And there is typically a middle ground of work that can be done by really talented attorneys at rates less than $100 an hour ..."

We hope you'll set a reminder and are able to listen in at some point next week.