Clients shun disaggregation model but stick to quality, The Lawyer research finds

In-house lawyers are not buying the much-trumpeted disaggregated legal services firms are offering them, exclusive research by The Lawyer has found.

Indeed, the awareness of new legal services delivery models remains low, with the vast majority of in-house lawyers having never, rarely or only occasionally been offered some form of disaggregated legal service.

In contrast just 5.8 per cent of respondents said they had regularly been offered such services.

Cost savings are also not yet being widely seen, the research found. Among those clients that had used services such as regional low-cost centres or disaggregated legal work only 12.4 per cent reported a significant overall reduction in costs while 10.3 per cent reported an increase in costs.

More than a third (36.1 per cent) reported that purchasing these services had resulted in the same level of costs.

“I’m staggered by how many respondents say that they haven’t enjoyed a significant reduction in fees,” says one well-known UK managing partner. “Are the disaggregated services not being provided in a way that provides cost certainty? If not, why do it?”

The managing partner of DWF Andrew Leaitherland said The Lawyer’s findings confirmed that the disaggregation of legal services is not yet delivering enough of a cost advantage.

“This suggests inefficient processes in law firms and perhaps a lack of clarity and control from the perspective of in-house counsel,” Leaitherland added.

The findings, which form part of The Lawyer Management Guide to Delivering Legal Services Differently (published on Monday), include responses from almost 200 in-house lawyers spread across a wide range of sectors, team sizes and legal budgets.

The questions focus on the range of new and emerging methods being used by firms to deliver services in a more efficient and cost-effective way. However, this wave of ‘innovation’ is yet to resonate among the majority of clients, the results show.

Respondents were asked overall how satisfied are they with the level of innovation shown by their primary legal services providers in relation to the delivery of legal services? Just 7.1 per cent said they were very satisfied.

The Lawyer’s research found that the primary factor when buying legal services for the majority of in-house lawyers was quality.

“What’s interesting is the focus on quality, regardless of the approach to delivering legal services,” says Alison Bond, one of the founder of Pinsent Masons’ flexible resource hub, Vario. “Clients want to see innovative, flexible, cost-effective approaches to delivery but without compromising the quality they have come to expect from their main law firms.”