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The Boston Globe

Business

Corporate clients shift priorities for law firms

Tired of high hourly rates and a no-bid mentality, corporations are demanding changes in the way law firms bill their clients. And the law firms are responding.

As legal operations manager at Boston Scientific Corp., Elizabeth Murphy’s job is to get the best deal from law firms for services from patent filings to product liability cases. For years, she has cajoled, pressed, and pleaded with them to discount fees, set fixed prices, and bid on projects, only to be rebuffed by top firms that insisted on sticking to rates as high as $1,000 an hour.

But with more choices as lower-cost players enter the market, Murphy, who farms out tens of millions of dollars in legal work a year, is no longer pleading. Her message to those clinging to traditional hourly rate structures: “I’m not sure how much longer we’ll continue to work with firms that won’t change.”

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