Predominantly, the in-house counsel I speak with like and respect the partners they retain. They do not, by any stretch of the imagination, believe that lots of partners “out there” can do just as well for the same or lower cost. “Jones knows our company, works really hard for us, pays attention to costs, and values the long-time relationship we have had.” That is what I hear. Were it otherwise, in-house counsel stop sending work to Jones.
In fact, when a general counsel tries to cut firms from the roster, there is inevitably pushback. If you like and trust someone, you find it hard to imagine recreating that sense of shared objectives, quality and commitment. Firms are not interchangeable functions, fungible and abstract; they are friends and professional colleagues you rely on and like (See my post of Oct. 4, 2005: myth that firms hold about themselves; Nov. 8, 2005: myth of “buyers’ market” for high-end legal services; Feb. 12, 2006: not a buyers’ market in many countries; Aug. 24, 2006: many law firms are viewed as fungible; April 8, 2007: market recognizes differential value propositions; April 20, 2008: not the market envisioned by economists; July 30, 2008: exaggerated finding on “commodity firms”; and Nov. 17, 2008: neither buyers nor sellers are seen as fungible.).
Work may be routine but a person who toils yellow pad to yellow pad with you is not at all a commodity (See my post of Sept. 13, 2006: commodity legal work with 5 references.).