December 13, 2017

Corporations are frequently shuffling their law firm lineup — Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute study

Value is most frequently cited reason; others include work quality and responsiveness

EAGAN, Minn., — More than half (58 percent) of corporate legal departments surveyed say they shift their legal work among law firms at least once every two years. Nearly one in five (18 percent) change how their work is parceled out among their outside counsel more than once a year. Those are among the findings of a new report from Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute analyzing how frequently and why legal departments shift their outside counsel lineup. 

Value is the most frequently cited reason for either changing law firms or how work is allocated among firms. Work quality, attorney responsiveness and cost predictability were the other reasons that were most often given.

In addition, firms may not necessarily know that they are not meeting those standards and are in danger of losing client work. Fifty-six percent of legal departments surveyed said they either will not tell a law firm why they’ve lost work or will provide a rationale only when asked.   

“Winning legal work is increasingly a zero-sum game as demand for law firm services has flattened and competition has intensified,” said Mike Abbott, vice president, Client Management & Global Thought Leadership, Thomson Reuters. “Clients are setting higher standards for what they expect in terms of value and quality of work for legal services. Firms need to have strong reciprocal communications and ask questions that lift the veil on how they are being evaluated. What are the client’s expectations on responsiveness, budget and pricing? How does the client define value?

“But the frequent shifts in legal work also present opportunities for firms to win new business,” continued Abbott. “In a mature market, law firms that can best understand their clients, tailor offerings to what the client truly desires and deliver on the client’s expectations can reap the benefits of clients who are regularly shopping for new counsel.”

“The Corporate Value Attitudes Survey” can be downloaded at

The Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute brings together people from across the legal industry to ignite conversation and debate, make sense of the latest events and trends, and provide guidance as you confront the opportunities and challenges that these changes present. The site features blog commentary, legal news analysis, interviews with industry leaders, videos and podcasts offering keen insight into the profession of law and the legal marketplace from members of law firms, corporate legal departments, government and academia.

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Jeff McCoy
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