We are facing the worst economic crisis since the Depression. Corporations are slashing budgets. General counsel are under pressure. What are they doing? More of the same. 

Law Department Budget Cuts Could Lead to Change in Outside Firms (The Legal Intelligencer, 12 Dec 2008) reports on a new Altman Weil Flash Survey on Law Department Cost Control.

Reading what GC plan to do, my eyes glaze over (MEGO). I have read about the “solutions” mentioned for two decades. GC seem unwilling to change in meaningful ways how they work or manage outside counsel. Ok, they will adjust the mix of law firms, bring some work back in, and pressure law firm on rates. Wow, how innovative, how dramatic. Not.

Then there are the 12.6% of respondents who “said they would look to cut costs by sending work overseas.” Well, at least a few are willing to try something relatively new. But that’s lower than the almost 50% I mentioned in Future Law Department Spending and Work Pattern Trends. That survey looked 5 years out. I suspect from the tone of the article (and hence survey) that the time frame was only one or two years.

“I can’t risk doing x, it might not work” is the usual refrain. Perhaps today the better question is “Can I risk not trying something new?” And that applies to a host of ways that could save money, for example, legal process outsourcing (LPO), decision trees, establishing best practices, or applying business intelligence to analyzing e-billing data.