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Beware the Supersize Law Firm

From an in-house counsel's perspective, what's not to like about large law firms? They're chock full of talent, boast dozens of practice groups that allow for one-stop shopping and bring a respected brand name that allows corporate clients to show others that they mean business. But with these strengths come attendant drawbacks, argues Rees Morrison in this article from the New York Law Journal, "Why Law Departments Should Beware Super-Sized Firms."

So what does Morrison believe are the disadvantages to large firms? First, and not surprisingly, is their cost. While law firm associates receive terrific supervision and instruction, that training is subsidized by higher billing rates. And enormous overhead combined with the billable-hour approach gives firms even more incentive to run up their bills. Second, while large firms have great experience, being a go-to firm also increases the probability of conflicts -- and obtaining client waivers up front which can complicate negotiation of engagement agreements. Finally, as law firms specialize, they morph into collections of small practice areas. As a result, they may not have the ability to offer a broad perspective -- only an aggregation of narrow views.

Though Morrison's article just appeared today, it seems that some corporate clients are already applying his advice. According to this story from Bloomberg, a Japanese video game maker chose to abandon its pricey Biglaw representation to take advantage of the 20 percent rate cut offered by Mark Peroff, who moved to Hiscock and Barclay, a 200-attorney firm in upstate New York.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on November 6, 2008 at 11:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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