As Clients Speak, Are Law Firm Leaders Listening?

, The Am Law Daily

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Many of the largest law firms are not responding to the demands of the clients they serve as outside counsel. Now those clients are voting with their feet.

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What's being said

  • Sophie M.

    The article misstates the proposition, from then-recent article by Dina Wang and Firoz Dattu ("Why Law Firm Pedigree May Be a Thing of the Past"), on which Harper bases his analysis. Harper summarizes the survey results on which Wang & Dattu‘s article relies as follows: "In matters labeled high-stakes-but not necessarily bet-the-company-roughly three out of four were less likely to use an Am Law 200 or Magic Circle firm than another firm lacking such a pedigree, provided that the firm in question achieved legal cost savings of at least 30 percent." Actually, the survey asked the GCs: "Are you more or less likely to use a good lawyer at a pedigreed firm (e.g., AmLaw 20 or Magic Cirlce) or a good lawyer at a non-pedigreed firm for high stakes (though not necessarily bet-the-company) work, assuming a 30% difference in overall cost?” (I.e., it asked whether GCs would send work to a firm outside of the AmLaw20 for 30% cost savings - not whether they would send work to a firm outside of the AmLaw 200 for those savings.) Wang & Dattu also state that the cost savings achieved by using an AmLaw 150 or AmLaw 200 firm, over an AmLaw 20 firm, would likely be closer to 60% than 30%. Those less-pedigreed firms that give you the 30% savings are-I think implicitly- those firms comfortably situated in the AmLaw 100, but at a tier below the "elite" AmLaw 20 firms. The difference is significant - rather than suggesting that clients are sending business to small firms to save money, Wang & Dattu observe that most clients have stopped sending their lower risk, simpler work to a single top-tier firm; what they are describing is the commoditization of a bulk of the services that business services firms provide. It isn‘t a huge jump to suggest that clients will soon start to look beyond big law firms altogether in an effort to maximize the value obtained for the fees paid to outside counsel, but it isn‘t what Wang & Dattu proved in their article, and I‘m not sure evidence indicating this has occurred exists yet, even three years later. Harper‘s mistake on this detail renders his analysis in this piece useless, as it derives substantially from an unproven, and likely untrue, proposition.

  • Obvious

    Its not the firm, its the attorney(s). Big Law sustains too many copycats - tweak the memo from last month for client X and change names and facts...the rest is the same. Many, many, very average "professionals" exist in the Big Factories.

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