Are clients really getting better value from law firms?
This is an interesting opinion piece that interrogates the response given by large law firms to client demands for greater efficiency.
It points out that for all the talk from law firms about cost reduction, profits for equity partners have continued to rise over the past two years. This means that the savings are coming from other areas in the law firm structure, and there is a danger that efficiency measures might cross a dangerous threshold and lead to malpractice. Case in point: earlier this month it was reported that J-M Manufacturing is suing its former law firm, McDermott, Will & Emery, claiming that the firm did not adequately supervise the work of contract attorneys from a third-party vendor. McDermott denies wrongdoing:
The article observes that operating with fewer secretaries and putting locks on supply room cabinets cannot account for the extraordinary profits reported by large firms. Perhaps, then, firms are demanding more billable hours from lawyers in order to offset the fee reductions demanded by clients. If lawyer morale and work product is compromised by these demands, clients still won’t be getting the value for money that they seek.
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