55% of Legal Departments Are Targeting Reduction of Outside Legal Spending as a Priority in 2020

Over half of the in-house counsel surveyed (55%) work in legal departments which are targeting the reduction of spending on outside counsel as a key initiative in 2020 (Q7).

This finding tends to speak for itself, but what the authors find most hopeful and important about the finding is that more than half of in-house legal departments are acting on the near-pervasive anxiety around overspending discussed in the previous section.

Our only question is: why not 100%? What’s even more interesting is that more than 7 out of 10 in-house counsel are concerned about overspending with outside counsel, but only 5 out 10 are looking into the issue of legal overbilling in 2020.

When this finding is broken out by company size (number of employees), it can be seen that larger companies are significantly more likely to be prioritizing the reduction of outside legal spending:


5,000+ Employees


500 – 4,999 Employees


Up to 499 Employees

A roughly similar trend is found when the data is broken out by annual legal department spending on outside counsel:


Up to $1 Million


Between $1 and $5 Million


Between $5 and $10 Million


Between $10 and $20 Million


Over $20 Million

Interestingly, it is the companies with between $5 and $10 million in outside legal spending that seem to be most focused on reducing legal spending in 2020.

Perhaps companies in this bracket are spending enough on outside law firms that alarms are being raised about spending, but remain small enough that members of the legal department are “feeling the pain” of overspending more directly than their peers at larger departments where the pain is more “spread around.”

The bottom line, in the authors’ view: any cost savings in outside counsel spending are “found money” for your legal department, money which we presume your department would happily spend on something else. So, if your legal department is one of the 45% which is not prioritizing the reduction of outside legal spending, we have to ask:

What are you waiting for, an engraved invitation?

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Legal Departments Want Effective Legal Spend Management Solutions, But Implementation Lags Far Behind