Is it conflicts or cost?
Cynthia Cotts of Bloomberg goes deeper into the trend of large law firm departures here, profiling a notable defection from DLA Piper (Ron Schiller leaving for Hangley Aronchick Segal & Pudlin); other firms are mentioned as well. DLA Piper co-CEO Francis Burch puts on a brave face, with good reason for now:
â€œThere is no partner who could walk out the door and create any material economic problems for the firm,â€ Burch said. â€œWe are too big, too well diversified, and our business base is too well-institutionalized. Our global revenue for 2008 was $2.26 billion.â€
(I first stopped reading after the “We are too big…” and pondered for a moment. –Ed).
With some exceptions, many big-firm lawyers with a healthy book of business aren’t going across the street to a similar big firm. They are going smaller, boutique, or virtual. Lower costs equals staying in the game; fewer conflicts and more flexibility are the icing on the cake.
It’s not just that clients are becoming increasingly demanding about cost. They are starting to talk about it. And over time they will become even more informed. Some law firms will have the critical mass to charge a lot, stay large and perhaps grow. But not as many–certainly not 200, maybe not even 50.
It can’t be easy being an Admiral on a BigLaw battleship as you try to change course in an increasingly shallow corporate legal bathtub.
I took a look at the issue of deflation and the billable hour about 6 months ago; it’s still rather fresh, so time for a summer rerun (click on the box, and you’ll be taken to the correct page).