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Aggregate outside counsel spend is not a secret that needs to be protected

Before law departments distribute requests for proposal, they sometimes agitate themselves over whether to disclose how much they have spent on outside counsel. Confidentiality agreements can assuage that angst, but law departments should accept that what they distribute to a few law firms might leak for all to read.

Not to worry, because the total amount that a company spends in a given year on outside counsel affords no competitor a strategic advantage. The total (or some portion) might be embarrassing, may look profligate, or may trigger inquiries within the company, and some much-used law firms might be crushed at how little of the department’s spend they were paid. But I can conjure up no other way for outsiders – including plaintiffs’ lawyers – to take advantage of the knowledge. Bear in mind on aggregate figures that most departments remove from them one or two one-off matters that incurred very large fees.

Quite distinct from annual totals of dollars paid, even broken down by practice area, dollars paid on individual cases deserve to be zealously guarded from disclosure.