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What controlling costs of outside counsel is NOT

Let’s tap on the shoulder some of the dancers that contend for the honor of the most effective way to lower spending on outside counsel. The winning dancer pirouettes at the end.

Sourcing and procurement techniques. No matter how skillfully a legal department, perhaps working with sourcing brethren, selects counsel and negotiates rates, there remains the far more determinative management of the firm during the matter.

Technology. Armed to the teeth with software and hardware that is the latest and greatest, a law department can easily end up significantly over paying external counsel. Software alone won’t save.

Knowledge management. Proponents of KM might prevail on paper — bringing knowledge readily and usefully to the desktop of the lawyer so they can dial back use of outside counsel — but in reality much more goes into cost control than locating information.

Processes and systems. A general counsel can map everything, lay out step-by-step what people should do, standardize everything, and kaizen until the cows come home, but without thoughtful people that will not effectively move the cost-control needle.

Centralization. Neither is it budget-protecting for a legal department to gather into headquarters many of the functions that pertain to managing outside counsel. Those choices need to be immediate and day to day; the decisions that lead to higher or lower bills are made in the field.

The most effective way to lower expenditures on law firms is to have committed lawyers make sound decisions regarding what and when firms should and should not do.