The Association of Corporate Counsel has just released its 2006 Managing Outside Counsel Survey. Martin Daks of the New Jersey Law Journal summarizes some of the key findings. Much will be made of GCs' concerns about compliance issues. But what I find most interesting is in-house lawyers' feelings on hourly billing. Daks writes:
Despite criticisms of the hourly billing format, its use continues to grow. In 2005, 87.1 percent of companies said they used standard or discount hourly rates, compared with 81.2 percent in 2004 and 81 percent in 2003.
While 62 percent of respondents are open to alternative fee arrangements — including fixed, blended hourly rate, contingency and retainer — they say that 90 percent of outside counsel resist the suggestion.
(My emphasis.) Ninety percent? Outside lawyers will tell you that they listen to their clients' concerns, but apparently that doesn't apply to the almighty billable hour. Now tell me if this sounds like a coincidence:
And companies are quicker to fire outside counsel. In 2005, 55.6 percent reported they terminated the relationship with at least some of their firms, up from 50.7 percent in 2004. The most-cited reasons were poor quality of work and results, lack of responsiveness, high fees and personality issues.
I wonder how much of the "lack of responsiveness" had to do with resisting clients' requests for alternative billing.
You can get the ACC's press release here, and you can order the survey here. Compare all this with Ed Poll's post on the popularity of alternative billing in his excellent Law Biz Blog, and the discussion in Carolyn Elefant's always-insightful My Shingle.