New survey outlines how corporate law departments are cutting costs

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Chief legal officers have turned to negotiating price reductions with outside counsel, doing more work in house, and greater use of technology in efforts to control costs, according to a survey released Wednesday by legal management consulting firm Altman Weil Inc.

More than three-fourths of chief legal officers have negotiated price reductions from outside counsel, with almost half receiving an average reduction of between 6 and 10 percent. Close to 20 percent negotiated discounts between 11 and 15 percent.

But CLOs don’t just want the most services possible for the least amount of money. The majority of respondents preferred transparent pricing or guaranteed pricing. Only about 10 percent said they wanted the lowest price available.

Many corporate law departments plan on adding more staff in the next year; 42 percent report they plan to add in-house lawyers. Nearly 30 percent also plan on decreasing their use of outside counsel.

But in-house attorneys aren’t immune to the negative effects of the cost-control measures. Respondents plan on shifting in-house work from lawyers to paraprofessionals, using contract lawyers and technology tools to increase efficiency, and outsourcing to non-law firm vendors.

The survey also shows that CLOs have little hope that law firms will change their services to better meet the needs and demands of corporate law departments. For the fifth straight year, the survey asked CLOs to rate how serious law firms are about changing their legal service delivery model to provide greater value – and for the fifth year, the median rating was “3” on a scale of 0 (not at all serious) to 10 (doing everything they can).

Another interesting result from the survey: Two-thirds of respondents think chief legal officers have more difficult jobs as compared to managing partners.

Of the 1,269 corporate law departments invited to participate, 207 responded to the 2013 survey.  Altman Weil has compiled this survey since 2000.

The complete survey is available on Altman Weil’s website.


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  1. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.

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