If I were still a Big Law CIO going into budget season now, I’d have strong views about how to present my 2009 budget proposal to management. 

This is a tough year for many law firms. Only desperate law firms will short-change critical IT infrastructure and staffing. Merely cautious firms, however, might postpone non-critical spending. CIOs should go be ready to discuss which line items can be cut or postponed. Proposing the bare minimum may not be politic but know how to answer questions about business value, urgency, and priorities.

If you think you don’t need to worry, think again. The current issue of American Lawyer is full of doom and gloom articles.

  • One Side of Midnight is sub-titled “With revenue down, firms pin their hopes to the expense side of the balance sheet”.
  • The Going Rate is sub-titled “With the economy down, will fees go up?” Fee increases will likely be smaller than in years past.
  • Advisers Advance is sub-titled “Tough sledding for firms, good for consultants”.

Your partners read American Lawyer and even if your firm is not hurting, expect management to be cautious or worse.

[A caution if you read The Going Rate. Don’t go on record, as one BigLaw co-chair did with a statement “Law firm partners and managers need to spend a lot more time talking about fees with their clients and less time talking about fees with each other.” Conversations about fees with competitors might be of interest to the DOJ or FTC as an antitrust violation. In fact, don’t talk about your law firm’s pricing with your peers.]