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To improve relations with law firms the most, according to firms, hire us early!

A recent article in InsideCounsel, Sept. 2006 at 46, refers to a survey by that magazine and one notable finding: “Law firm lawyers said getting them involved early on matters is the single most important thing legal departments can do to improve their relationships with firms.”

My cynical spin on that oft-repeated request for early retention is that for firms improved relations translates into bigger bills. Law firms assume the same rate of billing from the point they are retained, so the earlier the retention, the higher the billings. Of course, I must be wrong, because firms fundamentally yearn to give the best strategic advice as early as possible, and thereby serve their clients most tellingly. Money has nothing to do with their plea to hire us sooner. Do “good relations” to a law firm mean “hire us early and often, and pay our bills on time?”