The 16th annual CLT survey gushes, “peace at last.” If this be peace between firms and departments, I would hate to see war.
Aside from two inconclusive questions on alternative billing , four others aim directly at cost control efforts by law firms. For each the 295 law department respondents agreed, disagreed, or chose “neutral.” For example, “Most law firms pad their bills” had 36% agreeing, 37% disagreeing, and 28% neutral (with rounding). Those who answered neutral did not have any view either way? How does it sound if someone asks “Is your spouse cheating on you?” and you answer, “I’m neutral.” This is to say, “I’m neutral” about most law firm’s cheating on their bills is to damn with faint impartiality. And, when to “reduce costs” is the “single most important thing your primary law firms could do to improve their relationship” got 48% of the votes, how could respondents be agnostic on cost control questions?
But I won’t press this negative impression that neutrality conveys. Ponder the answers to other four statements. “Law firms understand my budget constraints” – 46% disagree (18% neutral), which denies law firm’s sympathy with cost controls. “Most law firms are actively seeking ways to reduce the costs of legal services they provide” – 65% disagree (22% neutral), which means firms couldn’t care less about the size of their fees. “Do your firms generally adhere to budgets you set on matters?” – 42% disagree (14% don’t know), which means if you set limits, they generally bust through them.
Mind you, as to their own firms law departments for the most part are not planning to fire them, and bestowed an overall relationship grade of A or B 9 out of 10 times. To support their own firms so solidly yet crush firms in general on inflating bills, ignoring budget constraints, waving aside high fees, and blowing through budgets can only mean that these respondents hold a deeply critical view of firms in general.
War rages on.