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13 July 2006

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» Do the AmLaw 200 and the Fortune 500 Follow in Each Other's Footsteps? from Adam Smith, Esq.
My friend Professor Bill Henderson of Indiana University Law School/Bloomington continues his fascinating empirical research into the legal profession with a new piece which analyzes, over the past 20 years, the geographic migration of large law firms... [Read More]

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D. Daniel Sokol

Bill,

Your data is exclusively American. An interesting question (perhaps the next project?) is whether or not these findings hold up in the EU, the other major center of legal professionals. A related question may be why London became such a legal powerhouse, as London based firm numbers dwarf those of German, French or other continental firms.

Another question would be to examine the entry of non-US based firms into the US. Do they follow your overall economic geography model? I would guess that correspondent offices may be very highly concentrated in NYC for both European and Canadian firms. However, I could imagine that Latin American law firms might set up shop in Miami (or in the case of Argentine based Allende y Brea, Miami and Atlanta) and Japanese or Korean based firms on the west coast.

As to the US data, your findings suggest a number of additional questions. If lawyers are following the clients, we should expect to see increased coverage in each of the global legal centers in the US for a given firm. However, in your previous work you note that the most highly profitable firms are reluctant to open new offices because it might dilute their per partner profits. Is it possible that a major transactional powerhouse need only have a presence in California and NY plus an optional DC operation that is high revenue regulatory work? Other than Skadden, none of the highly profitable NYC based firms have a Chicago presence. Is Chicago basically feeding off the decline of the rest of the Midwest or does its future outlook as a global center look more dynamic?

Is there a distinction between corporate and litigation work? That is, is it possible to have a high end national litigation practice without the need to focus specifically in global legal centers (or perhaps just outside them like Southwest Airlines)? It seems to me that Boies Schiller would suggest that such a strategy is possible. Is Boies unique or a harbinger of things to come of high end litigation talent scattered in such places as Las Vegas, Ft. Lauderdale, Armonk and Short Hills?

Joseph Heyison

For the most part, the clients aren't following the lawyers; the lawyers are following the capital. Transactional lawyers need to be near the repeat business and the complex business that financial institutions and hedge funds provide. The Fortune 500 companies who use the lawyers on an episodic basis then come to the lawyers.

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