Cassandra’s dominated the past year in terms of predicting layoffs by legal departments, doing more with less, marginalization by cost cutting. But a contrary view peeked through the clouds in an interview from Legal Strat. Rev., Summer 2010 at 20. Sony Ericsson’s general counsel, Jonathan Pearl, feels that economic decline and “generally enhanced risk factors” have benefited corporate law departments. “The increased heat in the boardroom has focused attention on the valued added by corporate counsel and the role they play in protecting their businesses.” In times of trouble, the lawyers move to the speed dials of their clients.
“When things are fine and everyone is making money, then frankly people don’t tend to run to the lawyers as often.” I wish there were a way to test that proposition with empirical research. Perhaps with some time lags built in, benchmark metrics will show that law departments hold up better than other functions during recessions in terms of headcount and budget?