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Adhere to the same travel policies for both inside and outside counsel

A large bone of contention between law firms and the law departments that they serve, when there are outside counsel guidelines, is the travel policy. For what kinds of trips or lawyers is first class or business class available? (See my post of Sept. 5, 2007 for thoughts on whether law firms can bill for travel time; and July 20, 2007 on two airfare cost-saving ideas.).

Most companies recognize that transoceanic flights for their own employees warrant an upgrade and most permit upgrades for VP-level lawyers or the equivalent. For the rest of the law department’s employees, there is a continuing administrative drag of individual approvals by superiors based on circumstances and budget.

One simplified solution is to mandate the same policies for lawyers in-house and those out-house. Such a symmetrical policy has the merits of simplicity, equity, and enforceability. Wal-Mart, I am told, has this tough but balanced policy. It decrees that all employees and suppliers of services may only fly coach. Full stop.