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Law Firms – Small is the New Big

Almost two years ago Seth Godin blogged small is the new big. Although not entirely novel, the concept gained so much momentum that Seth turned it into a best-selling book. Now, six months after the book’s release the concept is taking the legal community by a storm.

Prior to 1990 it was difficult for small law firms to compete with much larger firms. Large law firms enjoyed economies of scale. Large law firms also had their own unique problems, however, such as higher fees, high attorney turnover rates and one-size-fits-all policies for dealing with clients. Until ten years ago, however, the economies of scale still outweighed the drawbacks.

As with most things, the Internet has changed the practice of law. The automation of tasks such as ordering supplies, filing electronically and managing virtual documents has leveled the playing field. The Internet’s facility of communication has tipped the balance in favor of small law firms. If you have a question for your patent lawyer are you going to drive to their office, or are you going to use email or pick up the phone? In today’s world time is of the essence. Clients want answers now.

Small law firms have always had to be responsive to survive. Personal service and the ability to treat each client as an individual is what separates them from the big guys. Now that the Internet allows small law firms to outsource or automate their former drawbacks, they are quickly moving to the front of the pack. Whereas small firms used to try to emulate large firms, large firms are now coming to small firms for advice on how to provide better client service.

The Internet has changed clients’ expectations. The Internet provides clients with the ability to research the law and their attorneys. Clients know that they do not have to accept the one-size-fits-all legal service. Clients want legal services specifically tailored to their needs. Armed with online information clients are demanding lower costs and better responsiveness. Clients are demanding personal service, and small law firms are listening.

For hundreds of years large law firms have dictated to clients how they will offer legal services. Now, with the Internet, clients now have the ability to demand the legal services they want. Large law firms are coming to this realization, but have been slow to act. It is obviously much easier to turn a speed boat than the QEII. Fortunately, small law firms have already adapted the new paradigm and are using it to provide more responsive, more personal service to their clients. Ask yourself “Is my law firm servicing me, or am I servicing my law firm?”

Brett Trout

Cruising around the Internet I found a lot of discussion on the topic going back to Seth’s original post. For additional reading on the topic, check out these posts:

Patent Baristas
Blawg’s Blog
My Shingle

Texas Law Blog

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