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In-House Counsel Withholding, and to Withhold, More Work from their Law Firms

If you've been around as long as I have, you've seen this headline and the cycle it refers to, at least a half-dozen times. Click here for a concise summary from the AmLaw Daily. Yet, this time around, the move toward keeping more work in-house will be (more or less) permanent. That's because the current trend is not the usual economic see-saw that corporate management usually indulges in. Rather, it's a function of the in-house bar increasing its relative strenght within corporate management, as well as its collective sophistication as a distinct legal perspective.

So, the real questions are: a) what work is staying in-house; and b) what can firms do about it to maximize profits.

First, the kind of work that is staying in-house is not high-level analysis, but rather more high-volume (repeatable) work. Notably, they are keeping inside the lower-level document review work as it pertains to litigation, due diligence and compliance. That work can easily be monitored in-house. Frankly, folks like me (director of a contract attorney agency) are increasing convincing in-house counsel that several types of work can be done far more economically (and frankly BETTER) by a contract legal force, than by their white-shoe law firms.

Second, law firms can capture some of that work by utilizing contract agencies themselves. That way they: 1) keep more control over more of the work; 2) still get to save their clients money without sacrificing their partners' A-rates; and 3) get to minimize their own overhead and expand their own reach by being able to take on larger projects than every before--without committing to great numbers of associates.

All you need now is a reputable, professional agency that actually screens its folks and takes an aggressive role in making projects actually work smoothly.

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