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Uninformed speculation on non-law firm providers of legal guidance

At a speech I gave recently, I met the general counsel of AHC, Inc., a specialist company that helps hospitals increase recovery of their receivables. AHC’s website says that of its 400 plus employees almost 100 are healthcare attorneys. That impressive corps of lawyers has expertise that includes workers’ compensation.

My mind roamed as I conjured up images of environmental remediation companies and their employee lawyers who know environmental remediation, of international shipping companies and their employee lawyers versed in export/import law, of the temporary help agencies whose lawyers understand everything about immigration law – all the wide range of legal talent that companies have outside their law departments.

With the cost of using law firms rising steadily, with 30 percent and higher profit margins at law firms, and with the screws of cost control tightening, is it silly to speculate whether law departments might obtain some relatively low-cost legal guidance in niche areas from companies whose business is in that specialty? Possibly with some release of malpractice coverage?