In-house legal departments cost less, says BT lawyer

Alan Whitfield, solicitor to BT, claims his legal department is up to 50 per cent cheaper than outside law firms and has called on other in-house legal heads to share figures on legal costs and performance.

Whitfield told assembled in-house legal managers at EuroForum's In-House Counsel conference in London last week that he would like to benchmark his team's performance against other in-house legal departments.

“A small number of legal departments have indicated a willingness to share information for benchmarking purposes,” said Whitfield. “I'd like to offer an open invitation to others – I'll show you mine if you show me yours.”

He said he had already sent costs draughtsmen, who prepare bills for taxation, several of BT's completed files on contentious legal work and asked them to estimate what a City firm and a provincial firm would charge for the same service. Whitfield found the BT team had done the work between 50 per cent and 60 per cent cheaper than an external law firm.

He had also sent completed files of non-contentious work to two law firms and asked them to cost the work. Again, he said the in-house team had cost between 50 per cent and 70 per cent less.