About I month ago, I wrote about "Outsourcing The Legal Function." Today, I was reading this article at law.com about five questions law firms face for 2006. The fifth question is whether client relationships are more critical than ever. The author observes that "according to a recent law firm study by BTI, the vast majority of companies are shrinking their in-house counsel team, in part because they believe this will cut costs." I attended the seminar where BTI first presented this data, which is very strong. The reason, BTI believes, for this phenomenon is that reducing inhouse body count cuts inhouse costs, and that these numbers are more important for General Counsel than outside counsel spend.
Whether the reasoning reflects the truth of the situation, it is inescapable the General Counsel should be thinking about outsourcing parts of the legal function. Certainly the work can be handled by outside counsel. For example, if a company has a lawyer overseeing litigation, any work she is doing likely could be done as an outside lawyer. In terms of the value of the work, that value is fixed--what was the all-in cost for the inside lawyer? Might the law firm be able to provide superior service? Possibly, especially if the outside firm has the breadth of talent to manage (not necessarily handle) litigation with greater expertise brought to bear. And quite possibly, someone more senior to the inside lawyer will make better judgments about tactical and strategic matters. Experience does count for something after all.
With this said, I wonder why more General Counsel are not considering outsourcing as a solution.