Watching my Twitter feed today I really enjoyed the following conversation:

Timothy B. Corcoran tweeted that at an ITLA09 panel discussing how technology can support alternative fees, a BigLaw partner said:

Clients can look for savings elsewhere in legal budget other than my billable hour.

Matt Homann quickly concurred, “And they will!!”

In all fairness, Nancy Myrland replied:

I think he was suggesting that it’s not just about squeezing vendors. Maybe there are other inefficiencies too.

Nancy also added this to the conversation:

Also, the myth that alternative fees will def’y be savings 4 the client is alive & well. There’s no guarantee.

I agree with Nancy, and Tim. There are always inefficiencies within any budget. Alternative fees are not a guarantee of cost savings for the corporate counsel. However, it is not up to the vendor to decide which inefficiencies a client should correct before asking them to cut their rates.

I wrote about the dynamic of in-house legal departments as cost centers for a corporation. Private practice lawyers need to understand the pressures faced by their clients. They are being asked to cut their budgets, trim the fat, and to quantify dollars spent.

There will always be a few, and I mean a few as in fewer than five, firms that will be able to consistently dictate their price on “bet the farm” litigation and complex corporate matters. And, that doesn’t necessarily trickle down to the entire firm.

Before you can emphatically say “NO” to a client request for alternative fee arrangements, are you in a position where your clients can say “Good-bye” to you?