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As if the economy weren’t bad enough.

In the latest sign of an ever-tightening legal market, a new survey shows that more chief legal officers are planning to decrease their reliance on outside counsel and increase their in-house staffs in the coming year. To hold their ground, much less gain any, firms have to understand how that consolidation will take place, consultants said.

“General counsel and in-house law departments are starting to stratify their legal services into what we refer to as strategic, important and repetitive, or commodity services,” said Daniel DiLucchio Jr., a principal in Pennsylvania with Altman Weil, which conducted the survey this month and last. Of the 126 chief legal officers who responded, nearly half hailed from companies with revenues of $2 billion to $10 billion.

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