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18 March 2008

Comments

John Flood

Diversity according to Wilkins and Gulati's reinterpretation of G&P, is relegated to the permanent off-track lawyers you refer to. Thus the firm can appear to be doing something in this area while actually doing very little. Carolyn Elefant's blog carried recently something about minorities claiming to be sidelined into these categories.

William Henderson

Carolyn,

You raise a excellent point. I know a former large firm lawyer who started his own firm after his imploded. Because of his excellent reputation, he got a huge volume of referrals because of conflicts at big firms. He loves the autonomy of being in a small firm, has greater fee flexibility, and claims to have a much higher income, in part because of the lower overhead.

That said, large firms are growing MUCH faster than any other sector. See Baker & Parkin (NC L Rev. 2006). Perhaps both small and large sectors are benefiting from the growth in corporate demand for legal services. But there is no good evidence that big firms are going to be done in by nimble, tech savvy small firm lawyers. Indeed, many small firm lawyers trade on their former connections to big firms and benefited from exposure to the deal flow. There is a symbiotic relationship between large and small corporate law firms. Moreover, there is some benefit to having expertise in foreign locations--granted that expertise adds a huge amount to overhead.

IMO, Small firms are benefiting from a fragmentation of the market. But I don't see a wholesale paradigm shift. I could be wrong, however.

Thanks for you comment. bh.

Carolyn Elefant

I just downloaded your paper and I am looking forward to reading it. However, based on your abstract, I think that you have overlooked a significant factor in the changing nature of the large law firm: the ease with which technology enables lawyers to leave law firms and start their own. Twenty years ago when I graduated, starting a solo practice typically meant pounding the pavement for consumer oriented cases. But with technology, many lawyers can handle many of the litigation, contract and regulatory matters traditionally handled by large law firms. Moreover, as Mike Dillon, Sun GC pointed out in his blog post, Way of the Mastodon, corporate counsel no longer need the one stop shopping that firms offer and can instead find the best people on the Internet. As fees skyrocket and firms merge, clients are conflicted out of cases or simply can't afford firm rates and are looking for alternatives that new solo and small firms are ready to provide. I have written about these changes more here in this blog post from my new book, Solo by Choice: How to Be the Lawyer You Always Wanted to Be.

http://www.myshingle.com/2008/02/articles/book/authors-cut-solo-practice-looking-back-looking-forward/#more

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