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It’s hard enough to limit the rate of increase of outside-counsel spending, plus four methods ranked

UK general counsel have largely given up trying to reduce spending year-over-year. According to a survey conducted on behalf of the UK law firm, CMS Cameron McKenna, it’s enough to shave some off the spiraling legal spend: compared to a benchmark increase of six percent, a four percent increase is a small triumph, even though actual expenditures rise.

The survey, reported in Legal Week, Nov. 15, 2007, ranked the methods the law departments selected for outside-counsel cost control. The most important was a move away from hourly billing, which 68 percent of the respondents chose as their premier tool to reduce costs. Based on what I witness, it seems that is wishful thinking.

Just behind alternative fees, with 63 percent choosing it, was “better control of costs from firms.” What a bland and wishful dream that is!

Some 60 percent selected “better project management and scheduling,” while slightly more than half (53%) selected “an improved understanding of their business needs.” My guess is that the idea behind project management is to get the work done, not drag it out, and to unleash fewer timekeepers. “Business needs” reads like code for “match your fees to the value you deliver.”