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Procurement, law departments and some further thoughts

Previous posts noted the arrival of procurement departments on the field of outside counsel selection (See my posts of Feb. 20, 2005 and Aug. 14, 2005.). Reinforcements arrived from Legal Week, March 23, 2006 at 12, in the form of a slew of statistics from a survey conducted in association with Davies Arnold Cooper (See my post of April 7, 2006 on law firm surveys that produce law department metrics.).

Although I see little new in the murky metrics, two points offer twists. Tim Bratton, head of legal at the Financial Times and the FT Group of companies, holds the view as to procurement’s involvement that “you need to have certain economies of scale before it makes it worthwhile.” I think spending north of $1 million might tip that scale.

Elizabeth Lee, general counsel of GE Consumer Finance, says that “[Procurement] helps analyze our spend and reduce the number of law firms that should be on the panel….” If procurement staff bring analytic skills to the effort, good, but that is not what most law department managers worry about when they foresee the invasion of pencil purchasers: cost fixation, standardized treatment, endless procedures, and a cult of metrics worshippers.