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Have Large Law Firms Met Their Waterloo?

The list of large law firms laying off lawyers and support staff is snowballing. As one commentator put it “when times are so lean that the frivolous money-wasting starts to detract from desired partner distributions, then firms start to cut the crap and make some real business decisions.”napoleon

At the same time large law firms are downsizing, smaller law firms are upsizing. Boutique law firms (smaller law firms, which focus on a single area of the law) have started hiring to accommodate the steady increase in work flow. Contrary to popular thought, specialization, not diversification, garners the flexibility necessary to attract clients looking to streamline services. With lower overhead costs, little debt, and more personal client contact, boutique law firms are better positioned to adjust to rapidly changing client demands. As Elie Mystal ofAbove the Law notes: these smaller firms are experiencing “new business development and recruiting opportunities as many corporate clients look to reduce their outside counsel legal fees.”

Small firms, including those which specialize in intellectual property, corporate securities and employment, have the agility clients are looking for when they which attracts clients seeking an alternative to the “one firm fits all” culture. Law.com, one legal recruiter notes: “Some intellectual property boutiques may be benefiting from offering clients lower rates at a time when many
clients are trimming costs and perhaps seeking one-stop shopping for
patent prosecution and litigation work.” Whether it is the cost benefits, a dedicated expertise, personal attention or accessibility, recent hiring indicates clients are scrambling to capitalize on the lower cost and personal service smaller law firms have to offer.

Brett Trout

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