Ask most general counsel for their top issues when managing law firms and near the top will be ‘Pricing’.
Almost without exception, they have been told they to cut their budgets for outsourced work – many by significant amounts, while maintaining the level of advice required order to keep their organisations risk-free. The big question is, ‘How?’
That question (and its many, complicated answers) is the reason I talked with Patrick Wilkins, (owner of Martindale-Hubbell Connected group, ‘Legal Spend Management’) about his recent interview with ACC President, Fred Krebs. Surprisingly enough their discussion included that “How?” question.
Rory: Why did you set up the ‘Legal Spend Management’ group?
Patrick: The group is similar to my newsletter European GC (founded September 2009). Both aim to address the myriad issues which come out of the recent downturn crisis. How can in-house lawyers buy more for less, and how can law firms re-engineer their internal structures and leverage to cope with less fee income and reduced profits? Redundancies have already been carried out to trim staff numbers but there are many other things to do – such as helping clients themselves become profitable, re examples such as the revolutionary new, profit-making, legal department of DuPont.
Rory: Who in particular should join the group?
Patrick: The group is for in-house counsel and law firm leaders primarily in the countries and continents of the developed world. Also Marketing professionals in law firms – who need to be aware of the discussions in order to feed the partners doing the business, all the latest trends in billing arrangements. Those that miss it risk failing businesses since this is a watershed in the economics of buying legal advice. In my interview with Fred Krebs, president of ACC, he has said it himself. Younger attorneys also need to keep themselves aware, since when they make partnership, the terms, conditions and profits will all contain a different reflection than a few years ago. Law professors need to be mindful also since they are the ones sending the future lawyers out into the world: a very different world than just three or four years ago. It will never again be business as usual, therefore Legal Spend Management and European GC are vital tools for survival.
Rory: What will the group cover in future?
Patrick: We will be covering evidently, the ongoing debate on alternate fee arrangements, tendering as a new form of buying in legal advice at the best price, making legal departments profitable as opposed to cost centres, conferences of general counsel around Europe and the US, law firm leverage, in-house departments via interviews with key general counsel, the demise of the billable hour, litigation money-saving techniques among others.
Rory: That sounds like a good list to begin with! I’m sure it’s going to be great ongoing debate.