The Numbers Don't Lie

We recently conducted a survey of senior-level in-house women attorneys in Atlanta, with the goal of identifying a few best practices and sharing the information with the group at a luncheon (which was held yesterday). At a minimum, we opined, it would be reassuring for these women to know that their peers are dealing with some of the same issues, and this would be a more formal way to present the proof.

We got a lot more than the minimum. Over three days, 57 women responded, ranging from leaders within Fortune 500 companies to one-attorney departments. The responses provided some very useful information, especially regarding how in-house departments are working with their outside service providers. In fact, 29 of the respondents shared the steps they are taking to manage legal expenses, negotiate flat fee arrangements and take more work in-house. A handful of the survey questions and results are included after the jump.

One nugget that isn’t so uplifting, which we have discussed on this blog in various posts, is that in-house lawyers are still very worried about job security. Thirty-four percent of respondents listed it as one of “three things that keep me up at night,” with the correlated “economy/effect on company’s business” not too far behind (31.3%). Although we have seen that some companies and departments are starting to come out of the thaw, the majority of the in-house lawyers polled simply do not feel secure yet, even as many of them (48.6%) are taking on more work and responsibility.

These lawyers are and will continue to be under tremendous amounts of pressure and the results-driven environment in which they reside is going to have an effect on the way business is done in the legal profession moving forward, there’s little doubt.

A few of the interesting survey responses (more after the jump):

Which of the following best describes your legal department budget for 2010 (choose one):
    28.6%  Less than 2009
    37.5%  Equal to 2009
    10.7%  Greater than 2009
    23.2%  Not sure

Do you expect to use any new strategies in 2010 to manage your budget?
    54.5% Yes ... of those responding 'Yes' :
       ->46.1%  Alternative/Flat rate / Discounted fee arrangements
       ->34.6%  Do more in-house / Cut outside counsel spend 
       ->11.5%  More contract/outsource help
       ->  7.7%  Consolidation of law firms / Use smaller law firms

Share at least one recent success story on how you obtained efficient and affordable outside legal support, specifically your experience with alternative fee arrangements with outside counsel, if any.
    24.1%  Flat fee arrangement
    17.2%  “Not To Exceed” amount / Caps for each project
    13.8%  Negotiated discounted rate
    10.3%  Use Counsel On Call / Contract attorneys
      6.9%  Issued RFPs
      6.9%  Reviewed invoices closely / Identified areas for cost savings
      6.9%  Used smaller firms / Smaller offices of large firms with lower rates

What has been your biggest professional challenge in 2009 so far?
    48.6%  Doing more with less / Bigger workload
    27.0%  Morale / Team management issues
    18.9%  Work-life balance / Career
    13.5%  Managing business expectations 
      5.4%  Litigation

What three things keep you up at night?
    34.3%  Job security / Salary
    31.3%  Economy / Effect on company’s business
    25.0%  Litigation-related