by Debra Baker
Value is not measured in isolation. Buyers of legal services have many choices when it comes to addressing their legal needs, so value will always be a comparative measure.
Lawyers often think they compete against other attorneys who come from firms that are similar to their own. In today’s legal market, that theorem does not always hold true.
Firms with strong brand recognition continue to carry weight in high-stakes litigation and other high-risk matters. But as often as not brand reputation is tied to an individual attorney. With the increase in lateral partner movement and lawyers with portable books of business leaving well-known firms to start their own, the true strength of many firm’s brands is questionable.
In most cases, those we interviewed consider and work with attorneys from firms of many shapes and sizes on more than one occasion – and with good results.
A Chief Financial Officer of a venture capital company, for example, works with attorneys from three very different firms.
The company’s go-to attorney is from a small firm. This attorney is a friend of the founder and they have had a long and successful relationship. He knows how they work, provides high-quality results and is a true “trusted advisor.” The company loves to give him deals but they cannot give him everything because he does not have the bandwidth. If he is busy, they need to bring other attorneys in to work on their deals.
A second firm the company uses is at the other end of the spectrum in terms of size. It is an international firm with thousands of lawyers dispersed in major economic markets around the world. This firm provides a strategic benefit when it comes to atypical deals. Naturally the firm is more expensive but there is almost always a resource available who can provide insight about trends and market standards that might otherwise be difficult to obtain.
The third firm – a mid-sized regional firm – offers the bandwidth of the larger firm at a more competitive rate. This firm provides the outcomes they want, can handle a higher volume of transactions than the small firm and work at a lower price than the mega firm.
The takeaway? Given the changing nature of the competitive landscape, attorneys face competition from firms of all shapes and sizes. Firms should focus less on trying to differentiate themselves from firms of the same size and focus instead of demonstrating how they are better in delivering results with specific outcomes in the context of the impact on the business and the way in which they work.
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