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The ACC Value Challenge may have been co-opted by the law firms involved

My previous posts about the ACC Value Challenge have presented various facets of it, but not fundamentally challenged its value, so to speak (See my post of Oct. 22, 2008: normal fees for high quality work; Oct. 19, 2008: complaints about law firm associates; Nov. 21, 2008: deconstruction of its definition of value; April 25, 2009: reciprocal commitments; April 25, 2009: asymmetric commitments; April 29, 2007: not game changing; and Sept. 9, 2009: “move away from RFP mentality.).

Then a comment showed up on my blog, from a general counsel. “I find the ACC Value Challenge appalling. I want no part of it. They define “value” wrong — a fancy, multi-faceted relationship. In fact, value is a good outcome at a good price. Period.”

Hmmmm. As I reflect further on the covenants, they do seem oriented more toward meeting the needs of law firms than of law departments. Managing partners want full-range, deep and lasting relationships; they give much shorter shrift to how to corral the stupendous costs of corporate legal services. The commenter hit the nail on the head.

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One response to “The ACC Value Challenge may have been co-opted by the law firms involved”

  1. To Rees and the General Counsel he quotes: The tagline of the ACC Value Challenge is “reconnecting value to the cost of legal services.”
    The kind of (r)evolutionary changes we’re preaching must be a collaboration between firms, which are being asked to re-examine their business models and practices, and in-house counsel, who must drive the change. It also requires more than a focus on cost containment expressed as a cheaper hourly rate or a temporary discount. In order to achieve true savings, both in-house and outside counsel must examine and adopt value practices that drive sustainable and longer-term commitment to efficiency and better, leaner management of the process. Yes, this is better done as a collaborative effort between departments and firms: if in-house dictates to lower cost were likely to succeed, wouldn’t we have seen greater efficiency and cost consciousness in firms for the last several decades instead of the continuing spiral of high and ever-increasing costs totally unrelated to any increase in the value of t services provided? In-house counsel have been complaining about outside counsel cost concerns since long before I even joined the staff of ACC 20 years ago – complaining hasn’t worked, and neither have dictates that don’t fundamentally engage firms to change the way they provide legal services.
    Value is a subjective term and it means different things to different clients on different matters. It is often hard for firms to think clearly about processes that can be implemented in pursuit of such a subjective term with clients who all define the location of the goal post differently. It is my pride and pleasure to have so many law firms working with us to understand how they can provide greater value in their practices and better serve their clients. If that’s the definition of being “co-opted,” then I’ll happily agree with the assessment.
    If you look at the many resources on (and their focus on improving and supporting department value practices), if you attend any of the many programs and discussion groups we’ve hosted, if you listen to the hundreds of in-house counsel who are actively leading this initiative and the thousands more who are becoming its missionaries, it is pretty hard to say that we are focused on serving firms interests and not on client concerns. Unlike many consultants who are retained by firms, our business isn’t to help firms profit at client expense, but to help firms create sustainable practices that are consistent with what our thousands of members tell us they want, and that we are endeavoring to articulate for them.
    ACC wouldn’t be talking to law firms about these issues if not for our members’ mandate to us to help them exercise the leverage of the client community to drive change they cannot drive as successfully on an individual basis. ACC is by and for in-house counsel – always has been and always will be. The ACC Value Challenge is our best example of service to this goal. Debate on this issue is good – but I’ll take the suggestion that we’re very focused on changing firm practices as a compliment that recognizes our total commitment to pursuing our members’ interests and ultimately driving down the cost of legal services to corporate clients.