Another publication, another article about law departments getting tough on costs. It sure seems that general counsels are like people on a diet. 

From personal observation and articles about dieting, here’s what I conclude:

  • People talk much more about dieting than actually doing it
  • When they actually do it, the effort is often short-lived and cheating endemic
  • While on a diet, weight loss is typically modest
  • Weight lost is very often put back on because the dieting stops

Sounds just like law departments and outside counsel costs. Sharing the Pain (Corporate Counsel, March 2009) is yet another article about how GC will cut outside counsel cost. One GC is quoted:

“Maximizing efficiency and saving money is something many in-house departments have been trying to do for the last 20 years… But now the economic climate has added urgency to the goal.”

Need I say more? What do we have to show after 20 years? Yes, we are in a terrible crisis now. But the last two decades has seen its share of tough times. So I say, “show me the money.” Stop with screeds and start acting. And please, prove me wrong about GC, but with data please. My challenge to GC: save money this year and then share your savings with the legal press and how you did it. [And by the way, reducing legal fees by an amount proportionate to the drop in your company’s revenue does not count.]

Speaking of challenges…. The ACC Value Challenge, which is meant to increase the value outside counsel provides, among other tools, an economic model, a spreadsheet of law firm profitability. In my experience, customers don’t look at supplier profits; instead, they assess cost and value. (Do you personally care, for example, how much Apple makes on iPod, McDonald’s on a Big Mac, etc.?) If I were going to use one and only one spreadsheet with outside counsel, it would be a matter budget.