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It can mislead to simply ask a group of law departments what cost-saving techniques they use

I commend the First Law Department Operations Survey, published by InsideCounsel and Blickstein Group, but, like anyone who digs into survey data, wish it would ask in the next survey a different style of question. My example is the question that asked respondents to check which of 16 cost-saving initiatives did their legal department use. The data shows that e-billing and flat fees were selected most often – 77 percent of the 26 respondents chose each.

The style of question I urge next time would ask “What percent of your bills paid came through your e-billing system,” and “What percent of your fees paid in 2008 were on a fixed fee?” The question is better, although harder to answer, because some department might have a single, small example of a fixed-fee arrangement but it could honestly check that it engaged in that initiative. Or its e-billing software covers only ten if its 50 firms and about a third of its total spending.

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