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November 21, 2005

Hunting Bigger Game: There's No Reason Good Boutiques Can't Catch and Keep Fortune 500 Clients

Color me predatory but I love taking good clients away from large law firms (300+ attorneys). No, I don't think of it as a sport. In many cases, it's akin to "rescue operations". Sorry if I offend--but sometimes going from "BigLaw" to a high-end boutique is the best thing that ever happened to the client. Even to-die-for clients can get abused or under-served. They do. Go figure.

Although I have never been sold that solos (as opposed to boutiques with at least 3 people) can obtain and keep good Fortune 500 work, I do think that the trend of quality lawyers leaving larger firms and setting up shop in smaller ones--coupled with the right technology, planning and hustle--can take lots of interesting repeat niche work away from large law firms. It's happening a lot... And maybe I am dead wrong about solos. The Practice, in a recent post, commenting on an article by Cheryl Leitschuh, weighed in on this generally:

Competing with BigLaw for Clients

"Cheryl Leitschuh wrote an article with 5 things to help you beat your bigger competitors. The focus of her piece is that you can get work when you are competing against bigger firms. She believes you should focus. (As an aside, she introduces the piece with things that you hear: that solos cannot be as strong or successful as big firms or that solos cannot compete with big firms. While she does say this is nonsense, just repeating these things in a journal like the ABA’s journal, perpetuates these negative stereotypes of small firms and solos.)

"Her 5 steps are:

"Create a strategic plan. Clarity over the skills and talents you bring to clients. Focus on a niche. Knowing when to say yes and when to say no. Execute to create partnerships and values with your clients.

"I am not a big believer in strategic plans. I just don’t think they work. I think strategic plans are fine for Fortune 500 companies, but as a solo one of your biggest strengths is your ability to be flexible. I think a strategic plan takes away some of your flexibility. But, I do think its important to know when to say NO. There are times when a client may want you to do something that you just cant do. For example, I had a client who wanted me to help him franchise his business. After looking into it, it was obvious that this was beyond what I could do, since it would require a working knowledge of all 50 states laws. It’s a good example of when to say no.

"You can compete with bigger firms for clients. Figure out what you do best and market that to the firms. These five steps are a good way to evaluate your ability to get bigger clients."

Posted by JD Hull at November 21, 2005 09:21 PM


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