“Win-win” is a “lose-lose”platitude for assessing deals with law firms about firms

Gary Ruff, general counsel of Tenet Healthcare, makes some comments in Corp. Bd. Mbr., Vol. 12, 2nd Quarter 2009 at 42, about the new attitude of law firms in response to the economic doldrums. Ruff says that “They’re willing to consider a variety of fee arrangements, as long as it’s a win-win situation for the client and the firm.”

If we pierce the doublespeak, that sentence means law firms will grudgingly “consider” something other than cost-plus – very costly plus based on wads of billable hours – if the alternative wins for them, such as small reductions but the probability of bonuses. (See my post of May 11, 2008: monthly retainer fees are win-win arrangements.). “Win-win” leaves me cynical and sardonic. When it comes to money, it is a zero sum game between buyer and seller; the less the department saves, the more the firm gets.

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