Ratner,A recent article in Corporate Counsel draws our attention to a paper published by Morris Ratner, associate professor of law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, on the impacts on legal practice of cost-management initiatives by both clients and the courts. Paramount among these, the paper says, is a move by in-house departments toward “unbundling” legal work.

Ratner’s paper, which appears in the Fordham Law Review, is entitled “Restraining Lawyers: From Cases to Tasks.” In it, Ratner discusses amendments to the Federal Rules of Court Procedure in the US that encourage trial court judges to “dissect, assess the value of, and sequence case activity, including discovery,” as well as moves by “sophisticated” clients to break down legal work into “tasks” that can then be outsourced to lower-fee providers in order to manage costs.

While Ratner welcomes changes that will require litigators to consider managing costs for both the judicial system and the client, this trend should also be noted by, and serve as a warning to, law firm leaders: in the years to come, the line between law-firm management and case management is likely to blur increasingly.

As always, I welcome your thoughts on this or any other matter related to the law, either in the comments section below or directly via email.