If the costs of lawyers have risen have risen at the same rate as other artisan-type professional services, where’s the beef?

Amidst all the hand-wringing and chest-beating about the “spiraling” cost of outside counsel, a broader perspective would recognize that “all industries that use highly educated labor have had to pay more for their major service providers.” The quote in the NY Rev. of Books, Feb. 24, 2011 at 41, comes from Robert Archibald and David Feldman, Why Does College Cost So Much (Oxford Univ.). College states in the reviewer’s words that “billings by law firms, dental offices, and financial services have rise at the same rate as college tuitions; personal attention by professionals can’t come cheaply.”

Law firms provide face-to-face, individualized, artisanal services. That kind of high-touch care and expertise comes at a cost, a steadily rising cost that exceeds the mundane increases of bread and sundries. If the legal profession has only kept pace with its professional, consultative peers, how much special pleading is justified? Legal advice at a sophisticated corporate level means inherently specific and bespoke counsel, with a price tag like comparable services. We are not alone.

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