Trimming costs Featured

6:52am EDT May 30, 2003
Lawyers can be expensive. Even lawyers will admit that much.

A troubling matter for in-house counsel, according to a recent study of large corporations by law firm Kirkpatrick & Lockhart, is that the need for legal counsel and the legal workload is likely to grow in the future, thanks especially to issues surrounding corporate governance.

The study found that more than 80 percent of survey participants are satisfied with the value of the work they receive from their outside counsel. Respondents also indicate, however, that controlling the cost of outside counsel is their most difficult financial challenge.

In uncertain economic environments, law firms, like most other businesses, are reluctant to add staff, yet at times find the need for additional professionals.

Karl Schieneman, managing director and co-founder of Legal Network Ltd., believes that his firm has a technology solution that can help law firms and their clients keep costs under control. Legal Network offers legal management consulting and temporary and permanent placement for attorneys, paralegals and support staff.

Schieneman has developed modeling software that can calculate the cost to firms of using outside contract versus full-time professionals. The software, StaffRite, allows the user to apply a variety of metrics, such as the firm's hourly rate and the duration and type of project, to create scenarios that can give them a clear picture of what their costs will be in either case.

The StaffRite software uses national data to make comparisons. A law firm may be trying to decide whether to hire permanent staff for a project or use contract professionals. For instance, a mid-sized law firm may bill $150 an hour, while a contract employee might cost $125 an hour.

If the law firm uses a contract lawyer for the project, it can reduce the client's cost, increase its own profit or achieve a combination of both.

"In a time when people have to be more and more efficient, this give firms and clients a model of what's a fair way to staff efficiently," says Schieneman.

Schieneman, an MBA grad of Carnegie Mellon University who holds law degree from Pitt, also developed software that aids in recruitment of legal talent. The use of technology, says Schieneman, has been a cornerstone of the firm.

Says Schieneman, "We've always been very automated, from our billing software to our recruitment software." How to reach: Legal Network, www.legalnetworkltd.com