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“Win-win” is a “lose-lose”platitude for assessing deals with law firms about firms

Gary Ruff, general counsel of Tenet Healthcare, makes some comments in Corp. Bd. Mbr., Vol. 12, 2nd Quarter 2009 at 42, about the new attitude of law firms in response to the economic doldrums. Ruff says that “They’re willing to consider a variety of fee arrangements, as long as it’s a win-win situation for the client and the firm.”

If we pierce the doublespeak, that sentence means law firms will grudgingly “consider” something other than cost-plus – very costly plus based on wads of billable hours – if the alternative wins for them, such as small reductions but the probability of bonuses. (See my post of May 11, 2008: monthly retainer fees are win-win arrangements.). “Win-win” leaves me cynical and sardonic. When it comes to money, it is a zero sum game between buyer and seller; the less the department saves, the more the firm gets.

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One response to ““Win-win” is a “lose-lose”platitude for assessing deals with law firms about firms”

  1. Rees – not sure I would go with you on this one.
    Lawyers are businesses and businesses exist to make money. They do so by providing a service. They do not in anyway have a role subsidising any client and are also very much subject to the constraints of a competitive economy.
    The UK construction industry has previously been heavily based on the “zero sum game” with at least 3 sets of different law reports to show for their efforts. But major projects, in the UK at least, have increasingly moved away from that to a more mutual “pain/gain share” basis of contracting. That was used in the successful Heathrow Terminal 5 construction and is also an approach adopted by some of the major utilities.
    “Win win” may be jargon but it is also indicative of a willingness and effort to working together. Certainly from my own experience, having an external attorney that enjoys working with me, as the client, has resulted in far more satisfactory outcomes than have my efforts at “foot on throat” bases of instruction.