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February 09, 2007

GCs: Do you really need Big, Clumsy & Unresponsive in 50 cities worldwide?

If you are a hiring in-house counsel working for a great company doing business everywhere, is there any reason to keep engaging your US or UK-based law firm that expanded in the past few years all over the globe like a spastic hamburger franchise? When those firms expanded internationally, they diluted their talent and "gene" pool, and their value to your company, and you know it. They acquired lawyers and law firms in the US and abroad they wouldn't have looked at twice 15 years ago. Our firm's international group, the IBLC, is a clearinghouse of high-end corporate law talent in smaller firms all over the world.

Hull McGuire PC has been busy helping mold this group for 8 years. We know each other well, see each other often, and work together regularly. (Our last full meeting was in September 2006 in the US. We meet again in Austria in a few weeks. Smaller teams constantly form and meet and work for clients more frequently.) There are IBLC members in over 70 cities worldwide. Forty firms are particularly active. Member firms range between 5 and 130 lawyers, all of whom who could work at any mega-firm now or of yester year--and so they charge accordingly. Not cheap. The firms compete on service, not price. There are other tightly-knit international groups, perhaps as many as 400; the IBLC is one of several that works.

Posted by JD Hull at February 9, 2007 09:59 PM



Have your seen the piece on laws firms and real capital on Adam Smith, Esq.


what is your take? how do you plan on competing

second, what are you going to do to match the new starting salaries?

Posted by: Moe Levine at January 27, 2007 11:49 AM

Moe--Sorry I missed your comment before this but, well, I just missed it. First, we make money; we are trying to get rich, and we know from 15 years of doing this, you can do that in a boutique. Granted, if we could find the right people, and double the size of the firm, we would make more. Fortune 500 firms stick with us and are more than happy to give us more work. The problem is finding associates who KNOW they don't want a larger firm. Finally, a few of the best LPM bloggers, in my view, are hopelessly out of touch of with how mediocre the work is these days at most firms over 500 lawyers, and their posts are often (not always) driven by conclusions that pander to the larger firms. They get markets, but they don't get lawyering. Talent is critical and important to pay for, but without standards, it's just another old story. Bloggers need to get out more. However, AS, usually an exception, is right about many things. Hope he's right about investment in firms. I would welcome it--and don't think it would hurt what little independent judgment there is left in the profession.

Second, re: associates, see our "get off your knees" post a few days ago. You may have seen this in other posts but we are VERY competitive on $. The associates here can work anywhere--and they generally have gone to to much larger firms if fired or they quit. Ironically, though, we would not hire 95% of the associates who are hired at any other firm. They would not cut it here. Standards of practice--not to mention client service--at most firms have waned. Generally, legal products at large firms are getting worse and worse. I see it every day. And so far horizontals from mega-firms have never worked out. They are overwhelmed. We expect associates to work their asses off, and master two areas of the law in the careers. (If they make noises about "quality of life" and W-L balance, we tell them to hit the road.) The biggest problem with associates at boutiques is the ripple effect caused if they leave. We depend on associates and give them client responsibilities very early. Client service really is a religion here--it's not a gimmick. If they don't get that part as well, they must leave. Associates, who know zero when they get to any firm, are under pressures at Hull McGuire but they learn much fast if they can get through the first year or so. We don't think the first years should be easy.

Posted by: Dan Hull at February 11, 2007 10:12 AM

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