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Cost of regulations as a way to convey the value of a law department

Federal regulations “already fill 150,000 pages of fine-print text and cost Americans $1.7 trillion a year.” This claim, controversial at the least regarding the cost, appears in Met. Corp. Counsel, March 2011 at 5, from Thomas Donohue, President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. If someone can come up with such a figure for the federal government, someone can also probably estimate a counterpart figure for the States.

If the cost of regulations were as quantifiable as the quote suggests, in-house counsel who advise clients on how to interpret and comply with them would have more raw material with which to quantify the value those counsel deliver (See my post of Jan. 28, 2011: regulations assessed as “economically significant” or not in terms of costs and benefits.). For example, if in-house lawyers spend time on regulations roughly in proportion to the economic cost of the regulations to their company, that would be a performance and value indicator.

More directly, if a particular company spends less on compliance with regulations but still has a good track record on investigations, fines, or negative publicity, the lawyers for that company could boast of their relative effectiveness and be able to prove it (See my post of Feb. 3, 2011: high praise for GE’s lawyers on tax compliance.).