Proclaimed imbalance between law-firm fees and the value generated by those fees

A study conducted this year by Commerce & Industry (C&I) and BDO Stoy Hayward obtained survey results from 171 UK member law departments. In the words of the report, “Many in-house counsel say the bills they receive from law firms bear little relation to the value of the services provided.”

How can in-house lawyers be so sure of the mismatch, unless they can put pounds to outputs, i.e., express in money the worth of what a law firm did? Who can say for advice rendered by a UK law firm on European Union antitrust restrictions “You charged us £18,500 but your insights were only worth £14,000.”? Or if a firm reviews and revises your Corporate Compliance Policy, who can assuredly say, “That £6,000 bill generated value for my company of £8,000.”?

Certainly no law firm can hazard more than a guess on the worth to a particular client at a particular time of its 10 paralegal hours, 20 associate hours, and 8 partner hours on a revision of a major sublease. For much that law firms do, value and cost are incommensurable.

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