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Speculation on consequences if law departments demand large numbers of secondments

Astonishingly, “Linklaters had 200 lawyers on secondment to clients last year—although the figure currently stands at 95.” Corp. Counsel, Vol. 16, Oct. 2009 at 80, offers this jaw-dropping figure and adds that “big finance firms such as Clifford Chance, Allen & Overy, and Linklaters often have dozens of secondees with banks at any one time.” What about secondees to non-banks?

My crystal ball predicts several consequences if many legal departments demanded platoons of secondees.

Some legal management metrics will quiver and lose some of the consensual certainty they now have about methodology, such as lawyers per billion and inside spending per lawyer. For both, how do you treat in your benchmark metrics a crew of secondees? Is a six-month secondment an outside counsel cost or an internal cost?

Alternative forms of billing would have another permutation, because to provide a below-standard-rate associate is a form of discount (See my post of Jan. 2, 2009: oblique discounts through unorthodox arrangements by firms.).

Hiring patterns of departments might change because they are more likely to be able to try the lawyer before you hire the lawyer.

Larger law firms, have more capacity to second staff, will have more opportunities. Ironically, secondments might be like progressive taxation where the “tax rate” rises with revenue. Larger law departments will have yet another advantage over small law departments. Alas, their cost structure is higher so secondments may have a higher price tag.

Temporary lawyer firms and virtual firms will find more competition.