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A gathering of key law firms in a summit to explore cost cutting

A profile of Anne Chwat, the general counsel for Burger King Holdings, in Corp. Counsel, Vol. 15, Sept. 2008 at 71, mentions she hosted a summit in 2008 for her company’s primary external law firms. The summit’s purpose was “to explore ways in which we could work together to keep costs down while ensuring that our outside counsel are fairly compensated for the great work they do for us.”

Who bears the costs? I believe the law firms should pay their way and absorb their time. They are investing in the long-term relationship.

Will partners speak candidly? That depends on whether their firms are competing for work. I suspect that many partners will censor their most potent comments.

Are you likely to benefit from the effort? Yes, because it is an efficient way to convey your policies, explain the pressures you are under, and gather some ideas for cost management.

If you convene such a gathering, ask each partner to present a two minute, detailed example of something his or her firm did recently to reduce the costs of the client. That will put them on the spot and might elicit some useful ideas for all the firms to adopt or vary.