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Outside counsel spend as a percentage of revenue has increased steadily over 25 years

My research into the antiquities of law department benchmarks unearthed an Altman Weil Special Report, dated 1982. A quarter century ago it reported data on 96 companies that had $1-$2 billion in revenue (possibly $5-10 billion dollars today). Dividing the outside counsel spending figures given by the mid-point of the revenue range results in 0.03 percent of revenue at the first quartile, 0.06 percent at the median, and 0.12 percent at the third quartile.

Fifteen years later, the 1992 Price Waterhouse Law Department Spending Survey for about 20 companies with revenues of $5-10 billion provides another set of figures as to outside counsel spend as a percentage of revenue. The quartile figures for that survey were 0.07 percent of revenue, 0.15, and 0.29 percent respectively. The most recent survey of Thomson/Hildebrandt’s Jonathan Bellis found that for 156 law departments and their US revenue, outside counsel spend at the quartiles were 0.14 percent of revenue, 0.25, and 0.47.

The median figure, therefore (subject to methodological constraints) rose from 0.6 percent 25 years ago, to 0.15 percent ten years later, to 0.25 percent recently. It certainly appears that the expense of outside counsel fees has increased steadily and dramatically over the quarter century.