Survey: In House Departments Shrink, Workload Increases

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By Jason Beahm on September 29, 2010 1:56 PM

Greetings in house attorneys...in the mood for some good news? Then you had better head elsewhere. Corporate Counsel just released it's 2010 Law Department Metrics Benchmarking Survey, conducted by ALM Legal Intelligence. According to the survey, in house departments are up against shrinking staff, budgets and resources, while being expected to fulfill the demands of workload increases.

"Law departments have faced increased workloads during past downturns, but this recession is clearly different," said Anthony Paonita, editor in chief of Corporate Counsel. "Our latest survey demonstrates that in-house counsel, and their outside firms, are not immune to the ongoing, company-wide budget cuts the current economy has forced on virtually all corporations across the country."

A few of the more interesting figures from the study:

  • Budget cuts: 23 percent of the law departments implementing budget cuts reported cuts of more than 15 percent.
  • Increased workloads: 80 percent of respondents reported workload increases in the past 12 months for their in-house staff, up from 70 percent last year.
  • Increased alternative billing: 73 percent of fees paid in 2009 to outside counsel were based on billing arrangements other than standard hourly rates or the billable hour, up from 66 percent reported in last year's survey.
  • Factors in selecting in house counsel: A ranking of the top three criteria in selecting outside counsel remains the same as last year--firm specialization (32 percent), cost (20 percent), and responsiveness (18 percent)
  • Top mistakes: The top three most serious relationship mistakes reported this year as being made by outside counsel were over-billing (18 percent), lack of responsiveness (18 percent), and over-lawyering (16 percent)

The survey reported that nearly one-third of in house departments had their budgets cut in 2009 and one-fourth had the size of their legal team reduced. If you're still holding out hope for positive news, the survey did note that the reductions were less than in 2008. Nevertheless, the figures demonstrate that in house teams are still very much feeling the effect of the recession.

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