I doubt general counsel really care about a key firm’s “legal capacity insurance”

Four law professors believe that “Legal capacity insurance” comes to the fore as one of the benefits to a legal department of fashioning a long-term relationship with a law firm. This notion comes from an unpublished article (at 12), by Michele DeStafano Beardslee and three co-authors, presented at the Georgetown Conference on the Future of Law Firms. They write as if general counsel place value on a law firm’s capability to take on more work on short notice and that a partnering closeness makes such a stretch more likely.

I don’t agree with the first premise. Law departments do have surges of work, but they can manage a high tide every now and then in several ways that don’t include a key firm. Temporary staff, internal reassignments of work for a period, retention of another law firm, reallocation of work within incumbent firms, unbundling and offshoring, triage or change in how other demands are met, all these are ways to cope with an increased workload that don’t depend on a long-term relationship with a firm but hedge against surges of work.

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