Patrick Dransfield, the Publishing Director of Pacific Business Press, suggested another ploy of prestigious firms, and he called it bundling. This blog has referred to unbundling as the practice of taking away from law firms some tasks that others can do better, cheaper, or both. Dransfield sees it like an anti-trust violation of tie-in: to get brains you must also take brawn. Worse, law firm lawyers bundle their billing rates for all level of services.
“Prior to the financial crisis, large international law firms bundled up their services with the same skill and cunning as the Bordeaux Premier Cru wine broker, effectively telling inhouse counsel that if they wanted the premium ‘bet the firm’ innovative service at the top end (i.e. the equivalent of a Bordeaux First Growth), then they’d have to accept this service bundled up with …the work of less experienced associates and paralegals underneath. Secondly, the same charge–out rates for elevated work whose price is ‘beyond market forces’ was also charged for partners providing lower commodity work, such as Employment Contracts, and the like.”
I have not witnessed the first form of express bundling – “You don’t cherry pick us on sophisticated services unless you hire us for commodity work!” – at work in the United States. But his point about the same hourly rate for high end and low end work holds true. The quote comes from Asian-MENA Counsel, Nov. 2011, at 20.