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GCs are willing to pay a premium for the right outside counsel, but they want plenty of attention for their buck. Those were among the findings of a survey conducted by Houston-based law firm Fulbright & Jaworski. Fulbright surveyed 300 general counsel from 41 states on U.S. litigation trends. GCs favor capable firms with sparkling r�sum�s, according to the data. When seeking outside litigation help, just over a third of GCs said their top priority was specific case experience, and another third said general competence was key. Only 6 percent said they were concerned most about cost-effectiveness when choosing a firm. “In other words, they’re not bargain-hunting,” said a Fulbright spokesman. Not that the nation’s businesses are unconcerned with the price of their legal partners. Seventy-two percent mentioned cost-effectiveness as a consideration in selecting a firm, though it wasn’t the most pressing concern. A scant 2 percent ranked service and responsiveness as the primary factor in deciding their beauty contests. Once they crown a winner, however, clients want that firm to stick around. Nearly half of the respondents said they were most troubled by their litigation counsel’s lack of communication, and 37 percent cited a lack of responsiveness. Outside lawyers interviewed for this story said they go to great lengths to stay connected via e-mail, cell phones and the ever-present BlackBerry device. “My worry is not that I’m not giving enough attention, but that I’m annoying my client,” said partner Steven Roland of Sedgwick, Detert, Moran & Arnold. The only thing that bothered companies more than getting the cold shoulder was having to guess how much it would cost them. Two-thirds of all survey respondents said unpredictable costs were among their top concerns. By contrast, only 14 percent cited incompetence. “GCs are under strict budgetary restraints and are entitled to the best guess of costs,” said David Siegel, managing partner of Los Angeles-based Irell & Manella. In the past three years, Siegel’s clients have become markedly more concerned about predicting litigation costs, he said. Providing detailed budget forecasts is more routine for Irell than it used to be. “There are pretty broad ranges [in cost],” he said. “We try to be responsive and do detailed work to give them a better predictor.” GCs also nibbled their nails about overall skyrocketing costs — predictable or not. When asked for ways outside counsel could most improve service delivery, 19 percent said by being more cost-effective. “The runaway cost of litigation was definitely an implicit anxiety in the comments” of respondents, said the Fulbright spokesman. Twenty-five percent of respondents said they’d like to see a future survey about reducing costs and alternative pricing. GCs may be squawking about cost, but few seem to have done much about it. “We were surprised to find as little change in that area as we did,” said Robert Owen, head of Fulbright’s New York litigation group. Eighty percent of the companies reported using hourly billing for nearly all of their outside legal work. And 62 percent said they didn’t expect to see any changes in the way their organization paid outside litigation counsel. To reduce or control costs, just over half of the GCs said they were turning to a regional or national firm to handle all of their litigation of a certain type. Said Owen, “They want close relationships, not a lot of shopping around.”

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