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CORPORATE AMERICA IS freely spending for outside legal services these days. But whether corporate clients are happy about it depends on who you ask-and how they asked. This past year witnessed a “dramatic decrease” in dissatisfaction among chief legal officers with their outside counsel, according to a recent survey conducted by legal consultant Altman Weil Inc. On the other hand, two other surveys recently released by BTI Consulting Group Inc. found just the opposite-”plummeting client satisfaction” with their outside law firms. Altman Weil based its conclusion on the fact that in 2006, 30% of the surveyed companies said they had fired, or planned to fire, one of their outside law firms during the year. In every other year this decade, at least half of companies sent one of their outside law firms packing. BTI Consulting’s considerably more dire assessment of the state of outside attorney-corporate client relations is based on a wide array of more than a dozen measurements, according to Michael Rynowecer, BTI’s president. The firm’s report, which was published in 2006 but based on surveys completed the previous autumn, found that 54% of corporate law departments had replaced their primary outside law firms in the previous 18 months. Overall client satisfaction dropped to just below 31%, down from a five-year high of 43.5% the year before. Another BTI report, the “Survey of Client Service Performance for Law Firms,” was based on interviews conducted in 2006 with more than 250 corporate lawyers in Fortune 1,000 companies. That survey found that only 25% of respondents believed their primary law firm was “best at client service.” And only 32% said they would recommend their primary law firm to others, down from 45% several years ago.

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