Last month, Susan Blount, the general counsel of Prudential Financial, sent a letter to the 60 law firms the insurance giant uses regularly. The letter addressed the general economy and the need to cut costs, but one announcement stuck out: Prudential informed the firms that in calendar year 2010, the company expected to pay for legal services at 2008 hourly rates. It wasn’t a request as much as a take it or leave it deal, Blount says.

“The response,” Blount says, “has run the gamut, from acceptance to disgruntled acceptance to firms saying, ‘You just don’t understand!’”

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