How much knowledge of the company should law departments expect (for free) from firms?

Ben Heineman, in Corp. Counsel, Vol. 14, April 2007 at 87, maintains that law firms should understand the whole company that is their client and that ample material is available to tutor them. “There is a large amount of public information about corporations, if outside lawyers are willing to collect it and read it (without billing the time): from annual reports and proxy statements, to citizenship reports and Web sites, to analysts’ reports and newspaper and magazine articles.” (emphasis added)

Let’s translate Heineman’s no-charge assumption into dollars. Assume a $10 million-dollar-a-year client relationship and ten core lawyers at a firm who devote much of their chargeable time to that client. Any Fortune 1000 client has tens of thousands of pages written about it, from the sources Heineman cites as well as many others. Is it plausible for a law department to expect each of the core-team members to set aside two hours a week for reading about the client? If so, 10 lawyers multiplied by $300 an hour, for fifty weeks in a year amounts to a firm investment of $300,000, which is a quarter of a percent of revenue.

My stab at quantification may miss the mark widely or seem fanciful, but the point remains: how much free commitment should a reasonable law department expect from its primary firms?

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