It dawned on me recently that many of the breakthroughs in law department management in recent decades are largely related to reducing and managing costs. While on vacation a while back, I came up with a list of the ten management changes that I have come to view as the most significant throughout my over 20-year career consulting to general counsel. I've listed these in declining order of importance (at least in my humble opinion), but see if you can pick out the ones most related to spend reduction and cost management.
1. Financial accountability expected of general counsel, such as budgets, periodic reporting on expenses, benchmarking, management of outside counsel, and the incursions of the procurement function
2. Buyer-vendor relations with outside counsel, where some are viewed more as transactional vendors and value for money has become a common refrain (See also convergence and financial accountability)
3. Tools for managing discovery and production of documents, which has admittedly been a wave smashing the shore in the last five years
4. Expansion and integration with legal of compliance functions
5. Convergence of law firms, by which I mean the deliberate effort to shuck many firms and send work to a relatively few firms
6. Matter management systems for everyone, not just big departments or those that can roll their own
7. Electronic billing and analysis of invoices, which includes development of the LEDES standards and the coupling of matter management and e-billing
8. Benchmarking data generally available and more relied on and compared to
9. Fixed fee billing arrangements for nearly every kind of legal service that is done by law firms
10. Specialist lawyers in-house at the level of law firm partners
Other candidates could be the global expansion of legal departments and the elaborated cottage industry of service providers to law departments. In the next five years, my predictions for developments that might join this list include off shoring, online networks for lawyers, and concept-search-and-organization software.
It's fascinating about how many of these come down to spend and cost management, isn't it?