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Four thoughts on cost-saving techniques implemented en masse

A recent post describes four steps the Gap Inc. is taking to stem increases in legal fees (See my post of Jan. 22, 2009: plans, smaller firms, contract lawyers and offshoring.). From writing about those four steps, four thoughts occurred to me.

Each step takes time and effort and a law department has to stick with them over a long period of time to reap the benefits.

Second, it is impossible to figure out the return on investment of any single step because the whole system undergoes change and you can’t isolate the effects of one of the steps apart from the others.

Third thought: No metrics came from the general counsel as she listed her initiatives. What percentage of her outside counsel spending fits within matter budgets? What is the average staff size on her matters now, as compared to before? How much did she spend on contract attornies? What is the cost differential for offshored legal services? Statements of “we did something” lose much of their punch if there are no numbers associated with them.

As for my fourth epiphany, none of these techniques are jaw-droppers. All of them are well ventilated and documented. As it should be. General counsel do not need to be innovative to manage better. They need to be consistent and disciplined for months on end.