General Counsel Buying Habits

In a recent announcement reported by Elaine McArdle of the Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly, Harvard Law School’s Center on Lawyers and the Professional Services Industry, chaired by David Wilkins, said that Harvard was conducting a survey about the issue of how and why in-house counsel hire outside lawyers/law firms.

Wilkins, who was the keynote speaker at our LawBiz Management Diversity Conference in both 2003 and 2006, said that the survey would focus on a wide array of questions about corporate purchasing of legal services including:

  • How a company decides which matters to give to outside counsel
  • Who in the corporation makes the decision on when and whom to hire
  • What factors go into the decision to hire a given firm such as reputation, geographic proximity to the corporation, experience in a given practice area, and diversity, among other factors
  • What impact does cost of legal services have on the decision of the corporation

In earlier years, the decision was based solely on personal contact. Today, the decision is far more complex, involving many factors. Consulting firms have conducted such surveys in the past. But, this is the first impartial study of the topic by a recognized institution of learning and should produce a "best practices" table of results for the benefit of both general counsel and outside law firms. Further, Harvard’s involvement in such a study will provide added credibility to the law practice management field.


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