A truism for all buyers, over-heatedly applied to buyers of legal services

The Eversheds report, “Law firm of the 21st century” at 5, pronounces a commonplace as if it were a revelation. “The key challenge facing buyers of external legal services over the next ten years is controlling costs and achieving value for money.” (emphasis in original) Of the general counsel, legal directors and finance directors at 50 of the world’s most prominent companies who were interviewed, just over half (57%) mentioned this challenge. I had several thoughts about it.

All buyers try to achieve value for money, without exception, so why is this “challenge” profound? No law department lawyer wants to fritter away money on law firms; they all want to get the most punch for the pound, utility for the Euro, and bang for the buck.

Second, the compound statement – control costs and obtain value for money – complicates the finding. Some respondents might believe that cost inevitably correlates with value: you get what you pay for. Others might believe that some legal services will fall to commodity price levels while other services still command premium payments. Cost and value are not synonymous.

Third, almost half the respondents ranked some other challenge higher. The report does not list the other challenges.

Fourth, the report adds that “Many [buyers] emphasised that internal pressure to reduce their legal budgets was bigger than ever.” But “legal budgets” could cover not just external legal costs but also internal costs of the legal group.

A muddled platitude, at best.

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