Business of Law

General counsel will share data on their law firms; is it cause for BigLaw concern?

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General counsel at more than 25 major companies plan to share data on their law firms in an effort to learn whether firm size and practices, such as value billing, have any effect on satisfaction and results.

The general counsel announced their plans in an open letter published by Corporate Counsel (sub. req.). With the help of AdvanceLaw, the general counsel will share data that includes law firm names, billing rates and arrangements, matter types and reviews of the work by the in-house counsel, the Am Law Daily (sub. req.) reports.

The open letter explained the reasons for the so-called “GC Thought Leaders Experiment.”

“In our view,” they wrote, “one reason the industry has struggled to innovate is that we don’t know which in-house and law firm management approaches work best. For instance, many of us have created preferred provider panels—but do they achieve the results we’re seeking? And what makes panels thrive?

“We all seem to be moving toward value billing—but does a flat fee arrangement impact service quality or the level of talent assigned to the work? Related, do firms that charge the most deliver better service and expertise? What about the in-house practice of sharing performance evaluations with firms—does it yield meaningful benefits? And does the law firm trend toward legal project management deliver better efficiency and results?”

News of the plan to share data produced “a mix of excitement and angst” among law firm leaders, according to the Am Law Daily. Some saw opportunity to learn from the findings and improve.

But one lawyer–David Rueff of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz–raised some concerns. The data could reveal inconsistencies in the ways staffing and pricing differs for different matters and clients, said Rueff, a partner and legal project management officer and Baker Donelson.

“So, I think it’s a wake-up call for all of us,” he told the Am Law Daily. ”It’s the next phase in a dramatically changing market.”

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