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More data and observations about why legal departments choose a specific firm for a matter

By law, it seems, all surveys of legal departments must include a mandatory question: “Which of the following criteria is most important to you when you decide which law firm to retain?” Loopholes in the law allow the survey to fiddle with attributes and wording, but over and over the same basic six or seven attributes show up (See my post of Oct. 22, 2008: law firm attributes for selection with 12 references; Jan. 25, 2009: attributized Bayesian analysis; and March 25, 2009: attributes according to Asian legal teams.).

Yet another instance appears in Future Law Office: Delivering Value-Added Legal Services in Challenging Times (Robert Half Legal 2009) at 14. This particular survey found that “practice area expertise” got 45 percent of the responses, followed by “previous experience working with the firm.” So, overwhelmingly this group of 150 in-house lawyers turn to a firm that knows the particular legal area and has demonstrated their skills before (See my post of April 16, 2009: incumbent firms with 11 references.).

What is different about this survey is the dominance of knowledge and familiarity. “Knowledge of the business/industry” scored 9 percent while “reputation of the firm” got 6 percent. Almost unrecognized was “cost or project pricing,” with a sliver at 3 percent.