When the budgetary ground shakes, and we look at the intensity of cost-cutting measures, we can draw on the Richter scale. A tremor leads to cuts in library subscriptions, discretionary travel, CLE, and consulting services. Somewhat more intensity means cancellation of the all-department conference, restrictions on temporary staff, and a refusal to fill open positions. A Richter 3.0 budget quake includes steps like demanding discounts from key firms and freezing their billing rates for a year or two.
More severe seismic shifts and law departments lay off administrative staff and a paralegal and finally terminate the lawyer or two who have long been underperforming. Richter 6.0 crumbles law firms with fixed-fees, competitors, restrictions, and bill audits. Richter 7.0, a truly major cost quake – brings down more lawyers and cleans out the administrative staff and limits the role of the law department. Richter 8.0, the cataclysmic upheaval to slash the budget, cuts to the bone of staff, turns off the spigot of outside counsel and contractors, and jeopardizes compensation for those who remain standing.