Years ago, GE’s law department pulled the rods out on the “Manhattan project.” The project exploded the company’s use of costly Wall Street law firms, and the evocative phrase has come to stand for the notion of equivalent capability, for less, in regional or smaller law firms. Big city, big firms sport big staffs, big rates. Hinterland firms pare all of that down goes the thinking in favor of regional law firms (See my post of Jan, 3, 2006 about favoring regional firms; March 12, 2006 about global, international, regional and local firms; and Aug. 21, 2005 on differences in billing rates between firms.).
More harsh is the sentiment at the heart of this view: much law firm talent is fungible. Any number of lawyers can handle the meat-and-potatoes needs of law departments. And experience teaches that only the infrequent thorny legal matter pricks deeply enough to justify a hemorrhage of legal fees on white shoe firms.