Like, I know you've been so stressed lately. Like, all that pressure from clients, consultants, and those know-it-all young lawyers. Like, they've been so bothersome—bugging you to dump the billable hour, train associates better, increase efficiency.
Great news, dude: No need to do that stuff! Cuz I just read some surveys of legal departments—and, like, general counsel don't really give a rip about change. Like, they're just talkin' big, but they don't really mean it.
I mean, just check out my take on Corporate Counsel magazine's latest GC survey:
Billable hours aren't dead. But we can pretend they are. To control costs, you'd think that GCs would "insist that law firms offer alternatives to the billable hour, or at least discuss it," says CC. But that's just talk so far: "True, more than three-quarters of legal departments surveyed are initiating talks with their law firms over alternative fee arrangements, but these rarely bear fruit."
Didn't make the approved list? Try again. Companies aren't shrinking their pool of lawyers. "In fact, the average number of law firms employed by companies with revenue of at least $5 billion rose from 126 to 173," reports CC. The caveat is that "a very small number of firms receive the lion's share of the work." But, hey, so what?
And here's what that fancy consultant Altman Weil finds in its survey of chief legal officers at companies:
Firms don't want to change, and the client won't insist. "For the third year in a row, CLOs said they don’t think law firms are at all serious about changing their service delivery model, rating them a median 3 on a 0-to-10 scale. However, they don’t rate their own appetite for change much higher."
More alternative fee arrangements—but not that much. "In 2011, 84 percent of law departments report using some nonhourly fee arrangements, compared to 81 percent in 2010. Nonhourly fees accounted for 14 percent of total fees according to the survey." Bottom line: Keep that meter going!
No one is communicating, so clients will keep complaining—and paying! "Only 35 percent of law departments regularly and formally evaluate outside counsel . . . and a meager 17 percent communicate the results of those evaluations to their law firms."
I don't know how you read all this--but it sounds like a big, happy, dysfunctional family to me. So, law firm managers: Hang loose. Go surfing.
Hat tip: Prism Legal.
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Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? E-mail The Careerist's chief blogger, Vivia Chen, at VChen@alm.com.