Are Big Law Firms Really That Different?, Week of May 31, 2011
Are Big Law Firms Really That Different?, Week of May 31, 2011
Jun 2 2011, 09:39 AM
Joined: 17-July 09
Member No.: 125
This holiday is a solemn one – a time to remember heroes – people who were put in "harm's way" without their choosing. Most of us view this time with joy, as a time to be with our family and to celebrate a day off.
In my case, I was given an added blessing. A very thoughtful writer, Nelson Schwartz, from The New York Times, did a story about the "graying of the legal profession" and what that means to a lawyer's career. He called me as a legal profession thought leader and quoted me in his article. Read the full article. And, the ABA Journal commented on this as well. Read their article. And, it was also picked up by the nursing profession. Read their article.
I'm one week away from starting our national tour. With the tremendous reception I've received thus far, I can see that this could become a full-time adventure! However, there are limitations of geography, time and cost. So, if you want to have me come to your Bar, please be sure to contact me. I am in the full court press as I write to make sure we have the map laid out for the trip and honor the time frame we have established. Follow us at www.facebook.com/lawbiztour.
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Representing Large Clients
In an earlier LawBiz® Tip, I discussed how some of the largest national law firms have suggested to the ABA that their practice needs require a broader regulatory framework than that afforded by the rules of 50 different state bar association. These firms all have national and even international practices, and they called for calls for more flexible rules on dealing with potential conflicts of interest, limitations on liability and greater mobility across jurisdictions for their lawyers who mainly represent large clients.
The Emergence of Large National Law Firms
Certainly large national law firms offer their clients many resources and economies of scale that smaller firms can't. But these firms tend to forget that they began practice in a single city or small region before their growth took them to a national level. In fact, 50 years ago fewer than 40 law firms in this country had 50 or more lawyers. Often such law firms grew by following their corporate clients, which for decades have lived by the philosophy that bigger was better.
The Differences Between Large and Small Firm Practices
What, ultimately, is the difference between the practices and marketing of large and small firm lawyers? To be effective, irrespective of the size of the law firm or the firm's marketing activities as a whole, each lawyer must establish the expertise necessary to entice a prospect to become a client. This is done using many tools, some with more credibility and requiring more sophistication than others. The goal, no matter what is done, is to create a personal relationship with the prospect before he or she becomes a client.
Marketing for Law Firms, Large and Small
In that regard, marketing for small law firm attorneys is no different than for large law firm attorneys. Large law firm practitioners must market individually just as small law firm practitioners do. A large law firm has a staff of people devoted to helping individual lawyers in the firm and individual practice groups; this is absent from most small law firms. There is thus expertise available inside large firms that small firms will have to hire from the outside.
What Does the Firm Want?
The existence of a fit and compatibility among clients and practices is the starting point for national growth. Ethical and jurisdictional differences would seem to have much less impact. Strengths in areas like natural resource law, immigration or intellectual property can take you across state boundaries. Insurance defense, personal injury and other practices that require local court appearances tend to be restricted by state boundaries even if they can grow within the state. It's all a matter of what the firm wants and knowing what the rules support - not necessarily changing the rules. And IT helps to hook your star to a client whose own star is rising quickly.
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