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Collected thoughts on law firms and the quality of their work

Many people have had trouble defining “quality,” and I won’t join that struggle. Even so, in-house lawyers value quality legal work by law firms (See my post of Oct. 16, 2006: survey data about quality as an attribute of law firms; Dec. 18, 2006: survey of several surveys; July 19, 2007: “quality of work” is top attribute; Dec. 20, 2005: firms have doubts whether inside lawyers can judge quality; July 14, 2006: adverse selection makes it more difficult to find quality firms; Nov. 13, 2007: hourly billing makes it harder to assess quality; and July 30, 2008: inside lawyers perceive quality differences among law firms.). Quality is a crucial concept, despite its elusiveness (See my post of Feb. 1, 2009: one of the ten most important management concepts for chief legal officers.).

Several posts make the point that high rates and large bills signal law-firm quality (See my post of May 26, 2007: high prices suggest quality; May 1, 2006: quality conveyed in price; Feb. 17, 2008: wine tasting experiment; Oct. 19, 2008: neuroscience evidence of quality equated with cost; and Oct. 22, 2008: high quality commands a high price.).

From my collected posts on law firms and quality, one clear theme emerged: in-house lawyers perceive that many circumstances diminish the quality of law firm services (See my post of July 3, 2007: convergence, according to a survey; Nov. 13, 2005: mergers by law firms; March 15, 2006: quality is uneven in large, international firms; Aug. 5, 2007: fixed fees worry law departments about quality drop offs; Sept. 4, 2006: fixed fees are compromises between quality and cost; Feb. 16, 2006: leverage in law firms causes quality to suffer; Oct. 20, 2005: billable hour requirements cut into quality; May 5, 2006: uncommitted associates; Dec. 16, 2006: complacency by law firms; Dec. 19, 2006: tight management by a law department may dim quality; and Sept. 12, 2008: transitioning matters from one firm to another reduces quality.).