A woeful claim about companies firing primary law firms, but I doubt it is true

I am deeply suspicious of the findings of BTI Consulting Group regarding the frequency with which corporate clients “fire” their primary law firms. The latest BTI doomsday message, from Law Firm Inc., Vol. 5, May 2007, at 11, purports to be based on 250 corporate clients with revenues of $1 billion or more. According to BTI, 61.1 percent of them “fired one of their two primary law firms in the last 18 months.”

My consulting experience with more than 200 law departments disagrees emphatically with such a finding. To the contrary, if by “primary law firm” is meant a law firm that a law department has used significantly for several years, loyalty is very high. If a “primary law firm” is merely one that received very large fees, it may be that the particular lawsuit or major acquisition ended, and the firm hired for that purpose became unnecessary. But that is not the common meaning of the term “fire” (See my post of Feb. 19, 2007 about “firing” and references cited.).

The apocalyptic pronouncements of BTI make me wonder whether it suits their consulting practice to scare law firms into seeking advice on how to avoid a self-serving finding. Any critic of the BTI gloom-and do metrics is at a disadvantage because almost nothing is known about the company’s methodology in its surveys.

Looking back, I realize I have cited BTI studies, and usually attack the findings or methodology (See my posts of March 25, 2005 about total legal spending’s decline; Aug. 30, 2006 on metrics with false precision; July 21, 2005 on 180 Fortune 1000 counsel and some “silly choices”; April 9, 2005 about “critical activities”; April 30, 2006 on technology and odd choices; and May 4, 2007 on bizarre primacy accorded to prestige firms.).

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