When clients complete satisfaction surveys on behalf of law departments, rarely do they have a question that asks their views on the performance of outside counsel. A question might touch on the cost of external lawyers, but otherwise the external contribution is entirely refracted through inside lawyers. The external lawyers may make the internal ones look good, but clients may have no sense of that or how much it happens.
Yet, half or more all legal spending finds its way to law firms (See my post of Dec. 5, 2007: steadiness over time of the 60/40 ratio of outside to inside spend.) so it should be equally important to ask clients about how they evaluate outside firms. The management of outside counsel is a skill of the internal lawyers, and subject to evaluation by clients. But the actual performance of the outside counsel could also be assessed by clients.