WE’RE GETTING READY TO MOVE AROUND IN OUR NEWS-
room. With reporters and editors organized around
themes, we thought it might be a good idea to have
people who work together sit together. Naturally that
entails sorting through the stuff we’re accumulated, and
when you’re in one place for a long time, you have a lot
of papers, mementos, plastic forks and other detritus.
We also have a lot of back issues of the magazine
lying around. It’s a legacy of our print-only days. When
an issue is shipped to the printer, we get early copies. By
that point, it’s too late to see if anything’s wrong, but it
makes us feel good to see the actual product before anyone else. It also means that there are lots of Corporate
Counsel copies lying around, on desks, under desks, in
bookshelves and on the window sills.
I couldn’t help it. Sorting is boring, but browsing
isn’t. It was nice to get reacquainted with some old
stories, look at the mastheads to see who’s still around
or who was doing a different job, and look at how the
design of the magazine has changed over the years.
This publication started out as an offshoot of our
affiliate, The American Lawyer. That was way before my
time, but it came out quarterly. We were checking out
one edition from 1996, and it was an eye-opener. Sure,
And one big problem:
how to rein in outside
counsel budgets. Does
that sound familiar? In
some ways, the ques-
tions were amazingly
similar to what we’re
seeing now. But the
context was different. Back in 1996, Bill Clinton was
president, and this new thing called the internet was still
wobbly, riding on training wheels. The economy was
charging ahead, and tech companies were luring law-
yers to their legal departments by dangling impossibly
lucrative stock options.
Which brings us to this month’s magazine. Every
October, we report on that close yet peculiar legal
department-outside firm relationship. We put together
lots of charts showing which law firms represent which
companies in various practice areas.
We don’t do year-to-year comparisons of which firms
rise and which get less work, because of the nature of
representation. Legal work is episodic—a big class
action might involve a firm mentioned dozens of times
one year, and then, as it settles, the firm will appear less
in the court filings we examine to gather our data.
But this exercise gives us an excuse to look at the
law firm-client relationship itself. And after upheavals
caused by the Really Big Recession that started in 2008,
it seems that things are settling down to a new normal.
Law firm panels are good practice for big departments.
So are beauty contests and rigorous cost control, partly
brought on by tech advances. So while the problems
from 1996 might still be around us, departments have
found ways to solve them. And those methods, rather
than being out there, are now part of what most departments do as a matter of course.
THEN AND NOW