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Law department attendees at conference flail law firms on efficiency – who’s to blame?

Attendees at a recent conference excoriated their law firms on efficiency. Voting on electronic pads with a scale from 1 low to 5 high, “87% of them gave their law firms a 1 or 2 on efficiency and not a single in-house lawyer rated them a 4 or 5 for efficiency,” as stated in a press release by the Association of Corporate Counsel, dated June 30, 2008,

Why are those law departments hiring law firms that fall dispairingly short on efficiency? Why are invoices from those firms not slashed drastically to reprimand the firms and bring fees into line with efficiency and value delivered? If the lawyers outside are so monumentally wasteful of time, why haven’t law departments hired more lawyers inside so that they can handle the work more efficiently? If inside counsel can spot inefficiency that is so glaring, why haven’t they trimmed it?

Those who check off a box on a survey can decry the situation, but very little indicates to me that law department lawyers act on the sentiment expressed by these particular answers (See my post of Sept. 17, 2006: actual vs. espoused or expressed beliefs.). In fact, most law departments grumble about costs but stick with the same lawyers and their efficiencies year after year.