The squeeze is on. Trying to pare their law department budgets amid the economic crisis, general counsel have cranked up the pressure on their outside law firms, demanding slashed fees, predictable bills and improved service. With a stronger upper hand, company lawyers are trying to drive down the cost of using outside counsel.

Of all the budget issues confronting general counsel — and there are plenty — outside counsel fees and their lack of predictability are the two biggest worries, according to a November 2008 survey of 115 general counsel by Altman Weil. Nearly three-quarters of the respondents reported that they are implementing 2009 budget cuts of between 6 percent and 35 percent.

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