The economy has accelerated massive changes in our profession for both in-house and outside counsel. Corporate counsel must continue to reduce legal costs both internally and with outside lawyers, and law firms struggle to maintain competitive service offerings while reducing internal costs. Thousands of lawyers are out of work, yet law schools continue to graduate new attorneys at a record pace. Most agree that the pressures on all sides and the slow economic recovery have changed our profession forever. Here is a quick review of how we are responding and why the changes are—mostly—a step in the right direction.
There are now many ways for in-house counsel to achieve their legal needs. One approach is to handle more work internally by simply demanding more of staff. Other ways include: using knowledge management and technology; solo-practitioners; contract lawyers from agencies; e-discovery technology vendors and alternative document review personnel; inexpensive or free databases of information, forms and collaborative tools; legal exchange platforms for posing and answering questions; virtual law firms that have little overhead; legal process outsourcing and others. A growing way to control costs with outside counsel is demanding alternative fees. In-house counsel also have turned to the procurement department or consultants to develop requests for proposals and law firm selection.