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Matter budgets from law firms spreading (?), but are they effective for controlling costs?

The 2005 ACC/Serengeti survey of US law departments reports that the “average percentage of matters for which budgets are required has been steadily increasing over the years from 37.5 percent in 2001 to 56.4 percent in 2004.”

It is possible that matter budgets have become this widespread, although I am doubtful. Perhaps budgets on the largest matters skews the average coverage up, but I don’t see in my consulting projects such prevalence of budgets.

I am even more skeptical about the following sentence in the press release. “Budgets are a key indicator of whether in-house and outside counsel are discussing the expected strategy, staffing, and levels of activity in a meaningful way before representation begins.” “Key indicator” waffles the statement, but I question whether the topics listed are covered by most budgets, whether the budget dialogues and critiques are meaningful, and whether they take place before the firm starts work. (See my meta post on budget entries, Nov. 7, 2005.)