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“Law firms make too much money.”

InsideCounsel July 2006 at 52 prints the results of 407 law department lawyers, of which about 200 were general counsel, who gave their views on this statement. Far more agreed to it (43%) than disagreed (19%), while 38% claimed to be neutral. Not surprisingly, 84% of the outside counsel who responded disagreed.

The statement and the in-house scores trouble me. If you are in-house and envy the goldmine of outside counsel partners, you too can try to become a partner at a firm. Those who choose a life-style and a work environment should not begrudge others who put up with different pressures (competition, constant marketing, internal politics, thin capitalization, fickle clients, and little or no annuity work) and sometimes make boatloads of money.

Law partners make “too much money” — compared to whom? School teachers and toll collectors or neurosurgeons and hedge fund managers? Are the survey responses a roundabout complaint about in-house compensation?

Is this really a crise de coeurs, a clumsy moan that profits per partner at big law firms – which represent the crème de la crème of private practitioners, seem obscene? Who by the way pays the bills that swells those millions per partner? If “law firms make too much,” who is in the wrong?