Hiring strategies only changing gradually

While the in-house world is changing rapidly and is giving general counsel reason to readjust their setups, strategies for hiring external law firms are only changing gradually and generally not as a result of new requirements. BASF added two new firms to its operational panel because they are highly involved in legal tech, but this is the exception. The focus, as always, is on price, but few like to talk about this openly. The idea that companies are no longer paying for junior lawyers is mostly only talked about off the record, while Uniper and its vigorous saving strategy was met with only quiet criticism, even from other legal departments. Global corporates like GlaxoSmithKline or Microsoft are more aggressive: both announced they are eliminating fees from their legal bills entirely.

Costs are also behind the ongoing trend towards a more precise hiring of advisors in line with needs. Accordingly, the distribution of external costs varies.

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Midsized firms are called on as operational advisors in particular, whereas large international firms are hired for cross-border work and restructuring. But according to the JUVE in-house survey, the international giants are by no means established when it comes to high-priced compliance work. This is where specialist firms – primarily those in criminal law and antitrust – have the edge. The more professional the compliance departments become, the more the demand for advice will be limited to specialist material.

The globally much-discussed disruption in the legal market has thus yet to make a real impact on clients in practice. More than half of the in-house lawyers surveyed by JUVE do not mind how their lawyers arrive at their results. Perhaps another generation change is needed for a bit more of a revolution.

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