The Abrupt Resurrection of Mid-Sized Law Firms

Ward_bower135For years, top management consultants have been saying that mid-sized law firms were doomed.  This was because:

  • They couldn't compete with multi-office mega-firms with their platoons of professionals.
  • They couldn't offer one-stop shopping like the multi-practice megaliths.
  • They weren't brand-name firms that corporate counsel like to pick to cover their butts.
  • They were just chattel to be gobbled up by big firms.   

Brad_hildebrandt But abruptly the management gurus have reversed themselves.  "Now it seems the mid-size firms are more vital than ever," said Ward Bower in the June 2005 issue of Chicago Lawyer magazine. In various speeches, Ward's counterpart Brad Hildebrandt of Hildebrandt, Inc. has predicted the demise of mid-sized firms. "There's been a lot of talk over the years about how law firms must grow non-stop to survive, and that the mid-size firms are dying out. But that just isn't true," said Freeborn & Peters (law firm) chairman Randall Vickery. 

For purposes of discussion, let's define a "mid-sized" firm as one with 30 to 100 lawyers in a big city.  For all you marketers working at these firms, here are the new found advantages of being where you are.  Mid-sized firms:

  • Can match the expertise of the mega-firms with global networks.
  • Have equal access to cutting-edge technology, which has become less expensive in the last 5 years.
  • Have the speed and agility that mega-firms can't offer.
  • Offer lower pricing, because smaller firms have less overhead and there are no economies of scale in law firms.  Big firms have many inefficiencies, redundancies and bureaucracies.  And pricing counts.
  • Are more flexible about pricing and more willing to offer flat fees, success bonuses in exchange for lower rates.
  • Have partners who will work on a case and won't hand off the client to a less-experienced associate.
  • Corporate counsel hire lawyers, not law firms.  He who has the best relationship gets the client, regardless of firm size.
  • The idea of one-stop shopping isn't that important.  Corporations are happy to hire regional firms for specific projects.

Meanwhile, the mid-size firms get lots of lifestyle benefits.  The atmosphere is more casual, partners go out after work with associates, one firm has its own basketball court, kids run up the hallways, some of the artwork is done in crayola, and the walls at one firm carry quotes from my hero, Theodore Roosevelt.

Trackbacks (1) Links to blogs that reference this article Trackback URL - June 5, 2005 4:56 PM
This can’t be a coincidence. Seth posts on small being the new big, and Larry Bodine posts on the abrupt resurrection of mid-sized firms (something I’ve been expecting to see happen for a while now). ...
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