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How far will law departments influence management decisions of their key firms?

Hearing that one law department urges its primary law firm to give ample bonuses to associates who have provided stellar service, and learning of a general counsel who actively lobbied for a favored associate to make partner, I mused that partnering might lead law departments to hitherto unheard of interventions.

A department that closely tied to a firm should care about associate training and retention. I recall Lucent Technologies law department and Orrick Harrington at one time jointly interviewed for new lawyers. Secondments might become something insisted on, and evaluations of partners and associates who work on the dominant client’s matters could face evaluations by that client that outweigh partner evaluations.

The two parties should together make the decision about which lawyer serves as the relationship partner (See my posts of Oct. 8, 2005 on successor relationship partners, Sept. 22, 2005 about Wal-Mart and diversity of relationship partners, April 27, 2005 on Cummins and quarterly meetings with them, and Dec. 3, 2005 on having a relationship partner with each of your key firms.)

A law department that has awarded millions of dollars of work to a firm might well be excused for insisting on better technology at the firm, and better technology support.