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Two reasons proposed for reverse convergence: globalization and regulation, plus cost control

John Oviatt, chief legal officer of the Mayo Clinic, uses the term “reverse convergence” to mean law departments retaining more law firms rather than converging on fewer firms.

In a recent interview, Oviatt calls out two developments that can lead to increases in the number of law firms retained. “One is globalization, and so I may have a large number of small projects around the world where I have to hire local counsel, and most of us are becoming very international. And the other area is … regulation. There are so many growing numbers of areas of niche regulatory expertise that you sometimes have to employ a particular law firm.”

I think Oviatt correctly identifies two reasons why law departments need to beef up the number of firms they retain. A third reason is to manage costs better by choosing law firms whose cost structure and billing habits well match the complexity and demands of matters they handle. With all the tools available now to oversee law firms, the test should no longer be the number of firms but the concentration of spending by area of law and value alignment.