In-House Counsel Rank Cost Control a Top Concern
Posted Oct 20, 2009 8:46 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
In-house corporate counsel predict in a new survey that they will not be paying an increase in billing rates to outside law firms next year, a first in the survey’s nine years.
The survey also found that controlling costs spent on outside counsel is a top priority, surpassing compliance concerns for the first time in three years, the Am Law Daily reports. The survey was conducted by the Association of Corporate Counsel and Serengeti Law.
When asked the top five most pressing issues facing their law departments, "reducing outside legal spending" was the top concern, cited by 80.5 percent of the respondents, according to a press release. Sarbanes-Oxley and other legal compliance requirements fell to a close second (78.2 percent), while concerns about reduced legal budgets came in third (60.3 percent).
The survey found a larger percentage of the legal budget is going to law departments, and less to outside counsel. Sixty-one percent of in-house counsel reported using alternative fee structures and 38 percent reported using fixed fees.
The results were released at the ACC’s annual meeting in Boston, where cost-cutting was a continuing theme, the National Law Journal reports.
At one session, deputy general counsel Janice Forsyth of the pharmacy benefits management company Express Scripts Inc. told how her department cut legal bills, according to the NLJ account. Faced with a backlog of contract work, the company borrowed a young lawyer who bills at about $200 per hour from one of its outside firms to tackle the work. Express Scripts also relies more on local counsel for litigation and has imposed guidelines on outside counsel.
"Our costs are staying pretty much the same, but we're getting more out of it," Forsyth said.
More than 30 law firms had booths at the conference’s exhibit floor, demonstrating that the 25,000-member ACC has become “a force to be reckoned with,” according the Larry Bodine Law Marketing Blog.