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In The Firm, Tom Cruise’s character defeated his murderous, money-laundering, mob-connected former partners by turning them in to the feds for overbilling. General counsel in movie audiences everywhere must have cheered. In-house counsel face conflicts about overbilling by outside counsel so often that it must have felt like a vindication of sorts to see Cruise prevail.

Certainly, Hollywood portrayals of law firms’ by-the-hour billing practices are exaggerated. But it’s a fact of life that the legal industry rewards inefficiency: the more hours billed, the more fees collected. Things are changing, however: Because inefficiency is unacceptable in the current economic climate, GCs, as clients, are more and more requiring their outside counsel to budget and scrupulously control costs.

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