In my last post, I picked up on Gerry Riskin’s most recent post on our troubled economy. Gerry first raised the red flag on the economy last August, and I have picked up on the issue from time to time, including posts about the Perfect Storm, the bad economy being a long term issue and a discussion of whether lawyers had any reason to smile yet in light of economic news. The moral of these posts is that the economy is a once in a century meltdown, things are not getting better yet and the magnitude of these problems is such that one must anticipate profound change in the profession.
There, I said it. Profound change in the profession. I using the C word given how it has become the centerpiece of the US Presidential election and there both overused and misused. But here is the inescapable fact: General Counsel, indeed all in-house lawyers (save, perhaps those in the oil and gas industries) are facing unimaginable pressure to lower legal costs. The pressure is no different than that experienced by those in charge of procurement, sales and others responsible for the business of business. But the key factors are (1) the pressures to save are enormous, and (2) law department leaders are not immune from the pressure, or the accountability that goes along with it.
I recently was having a discussion with an in-house lawyer about cost control. He said his boss was very interested in the topic. His next sentence will stay with me forever: "What interests my boss fascinates me." I’m sure that line or at least the sentiment has been used by many, but what a lesson for we outside lawyers.
The title of this post asks if there is a silver lining in the black economic cloud hanging over our clients’ heads. If you don’t see the opportunity to restructure relationships in ways that produce savings for your clients while at the same time strengthening your relationship with that client, you need to open your eyes. There is no formula–I’d write about it if there was–because each client’s situation is unique. But there is surely a topic of discussion there that all should pick up on. If you do it right, you’ll like back and say that your response to these unprecedented difficult times was your finest hour (with my respects to Sir Winston Churchill).