GCs Look Less to Fancy BigLaw Firms and More to Small Firms

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on October 21, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

We've seen the writing on the wall for some time, but the Harvard Business Review Blog Network recently published a post on the decreasing popularity of "pedigreed" white shoe firms as the go-to choice for in-house counsel. Increasingly, smaller firms are getting a bigger piece of the pie.

The Survey

A recent survey conducted by AdvanceLaw asked general counsel at 88 companies (such as NIKE, Shell, Google, Nestle and more) two questions: one relating to cost, the other to service. First, assuming a 30% savings in overall cost, GCs were asked whether they were more or less likely to use a good lawyer at a pedigreed firm for high stakes work, as compared to a good lawyer at a non-pedigreed work. An overwhelming 74% said they were less likely to use an attorney from a pedigreed firm.

When it came to service, GCs were asked if attorneys from pedigreed firms were more or less responsive. Again, a majority of GCs (57%) found that pedigreed-firm lawyers were less responsive. So what is all that extra money paying for, exactly?

Moving Away from Pedigreed Firms

If your initial gut reaction to a high stakes issue is to call a pedigreed firm, the next time an important issue comes up, consider changing up your habits ...

1. Seek Out Smaller Niche Firms

Find smaller boutique firms that specialize in a very particular niche that you need assistance with. They will have just as much, if not more, experience dealing with the types of issues your company faces.

2. Meet in the Middle

If the idea of working with a small firm is scary to you, think about those firms in the middle -- not too big, not too small, they're just right. They'll have extra people to work on your case, without the big expense.

3. Prioritize Client Service

When deciding what attorneys to work with, think about how responsive they are to you. Ultimately, you are the client, and paying for a service. You should expect a certain degree of responsiveness -- especially when it comes to important legal matters.

Perhaps your company hasn't jumped on the smaller firm trend and is still giving all of its legal work to BigLaw pedigreed firms. Because there's a certain comfort that comes with familiarity, think about approaching smaller firms with baby steps. Start doling out work slowly, and before you realize it, you'll have a variety of firms that you could choose to work with.

Has your company made the transition to smaller law firms? Tell us how by tweeting us @FindLawLP.

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