I left Big (trying to be Mega-) law several years ago for a much smaller (75 attorneys) boutique. I’ve never been happier.
Personally, I find the Big Law model to be broken. Year after year, I would see rates go up, and partners hit a wall with what their clients would pay. Good partners, with healthy practices, would leave in pursuit of a smaller platform where they could reduce not only their rates, but, more importantly, the rates of their associates.
At LMA’s annual conference last week one thing was obvious: Big Law wasn’t well represented. In today’s tightened market, is it wise to leave the business developers and marketing mavens home while your competitors are brainstorming with the likes of James Carville and Mary Matalin?
I just flipped through the Attendee Roster provided by LMA. Only 35 AmLaw 100 firms were represented. Unfortunately, an overwhelming majority (23) of the firms sent only 1-2 people. And, only eight sent five or more people. A total of 87 representatives from the AmLaw 100 attended the conference.
Yet time and again, I met senior marketers from smaller, non-AmLaw firms. We sat around discussing the opportunities the economy is affording our firms. I met marketers from around the country who were there to take in the rich and dynamic content LMA had to offer.
For instance, I attended the Senior Marketers program on Wednesday. In my break-out session there were 20 marketers. Only two people in the room came from a firm sized 100 attorneys or more. Yet, they were there learning strategic planning lessons from Mary K. Young at Zeughauser. What an incredible opportunity.
In today’s Above the Law post, When Clients Bite Back, I find the sentiment is shared. We, the smaller firms, are in the driver’s seat:
“DuPont and other clients, hit by the recession, are pressing firms for fixed fees or 10 to 25 percent discounts, industry consultants said. Lower overhead of smaller firms, such as 210-lawyer Hiscock & Barclay LLP, permit them to charge less than DLA Piper LLP or Latham & Watkins LLP, which have thousands of lawyers. Partners at smaller firms charge $500 to $600 an hour as top fees compared with as much as $1,000 at large New York firms.”
That’s all this industry needs, clients figuring out that they can get quality legal work for half the price.