The ABA J., Dec. 2007, discusses the class of service providers who staff lawyers in-house for relatively long-term assignments at senior levels. The article mentions several of these groups and there are others (See my post of Nov. 27, 2005 about outsourced general counsel.).
Here is a taxonomy of terms for various practices of this kind. The analogy I refer to in the header relates to unbundling legal services from large law firms and finding stratified price points for legal services. Not that the definitions are air tight; only that I want to sort out the types offerings and their essences as best as I can.
1. A general counsel can hire a lawyer outside of the United States – that is called “offshoring” (See my post of Dec. 16, 2007 for 18 references to that topic.). The differentiators are international geography and cost.
2. A general counsel might choose smaller firms or firms in lower cost areas of the country – that falls under the rubric of “regionalization” (See my posts of Aug. 24, 2006 with three references cited; and June 14, 2007 for onshore offshoring.). The emphasis is on domestic geography and cost arbitrage.
3. A general counsel can retain a lawyer for two to twelve months to handle a certain class of legal work, such as privacy protection that might be termed “contract lawyers” (See my post of Nov. 26, 2006 for references cited.). The key driver is long-term and high level work.
4. A general counsel might hire a lawyer for a short term assignment – that is called “temporary staff” (See my posts of Jan. 10, 2006 on some cost comparisons; April 9, 2006 on contract staff versus temporary staff; and Aug. 2, 2006 on Sears’ experience.). The emphasis is more short-term and lower level work.
The high hourly rates of “BigLaw” – with a nod to Bruce McKewan of Adam Smith, Esq. for the term – leaves these various niche service providers ample opportunity to flourish.