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February 03, 2006

Yanks Abroad: Too Far, Too Fast the Wrong Way?

I was very interested to read a sober but wonderful post by Adam Smith (Bruce MacEwen) on global expansion by U.S. law firms abroad, especially in Europe, where my boutique firm is increasingly active but careful. It's called New Market Entry and the Cognitive Bias Minefield and worth reading. The post starts out "Global Expansion Junkies: I have bad news." Years ago, as young lawyers, a number of my friends and I in Washington, D.C. labored through "strategic" law firm mergers--all domestic and a couple of them pretty large for back then--which failed to bear lasting fruit. When things fell apart, as they often did, naturally clients and their lawyers alike were put at various types of risk. These were tough times to be service-oriented, and only the best lawyers could prevent the low morale from affecting their work for clients. In the mergers, "culture clash" was one problem, even between U.S. offices only 300 miles a part. The wrong mix of practice areas, inadequate due diligence and failure to analyze markets correctly were others. Lots of firms made mistakes. But the biggest overall problem was the pumping-iron kind of "let's get big--let's get really big!" ethos which is only human and was very 1980's. Lots of yellow ties, Hugo Boss suits and suspenders to go along with the bravado and hubris.

Posted by JD Hull at February 3, 2006 07:06 AM

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