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Frequency of departments “firing” law firms (2004 European In-House Counsel Sentiment Survey)

A question on a recent survey asked “Have you fired or are you considering firing, (sic) one of your law firms this year?” Fifty-four percent of the respondents answered “yes.” 

As I thought about this finding, published by Altman Weil, the Association of Corporate Counsel and the Practical Law Company based on responses by “45 Chief Legal Officers located in Europe,” I paused long at the ambiguity of “fired.”  Firing’s a dramatic ax, a climactic severing of a relationship, the reasons for which the survey found to be equally “cost management issues” or “quality of legal work.”  I suspect those were choices from a list.)

Is this factoid surprising; is it legitimate?  How ephemeral and subjective is “considering” firing a firm for being costly or incompetent?  None of us ever consider, for example, chucking our job.  How much was the fired firm paid in the previous 12 months?  Could it be the small fry got fried?  What lawyers say that the X firm was too expensive, when the truth is that the new GC favored Y firm?  Can you fire one partner but keep working with another partner in the same firm?  The pseudo-statistic melts in the firing.