Intellectual property firm Kenyon & Kenyon neither confirmed nor denied rumors that they will be canceling their summer associate program, the ABA Journal reports. The firm said in a statement that while they “have not officially cancelled [their] summer associate program,” they “cannot say with any certainty there will be a summer program at this time,” (as quoted in the ABA Journal). Although the firm has not yet rescinded their offers to summer associates, they told them that they understand if they “may feel the need to explore other opportunities.”
AmLaw Daily reported in October that the IP giant lost 16.4 percent of their attorneys in 2015 and “watched a steady stream of partners head for the door.”
Baker and McKenzie retains its title as the best-known law firm in the world, according recent rankings by UK-based research firm Acritas. However, although the “sun never sets on Baker & McKenzie’s empire,” reports The American Lawyer, “challengers continue to make progress against established, old-line firms in the minds of senior counsel at big corporations.”
Chief executive of Acritas, Lisa Hart Shepherd, observes that they are “continuing to see a decline, in the brand sense, of premium-priced brands,” but notes that global brand awareness is not easy to build in today’s increasingly fragmented market, where the average client works with 12 firms (as quoted in The American Lawyer).
If possible, however, corporate clients tend to favor sticking with their current domestic firms for any international work, said Shepherd. She adds that “once attention is won,” firms can keep such clients through “the promise of a great client experience and, for much of the work, good value” (as quoted in The American Lawyer).
Mary Young, a consultant at the Zeughauser Group, is quoted by The American Lawyer as advising any law firm trying to enter new markets to consider “what you can offer that others can’t, or what relationships you can leverage that others cannot.”
The Acritas surveys also found that many companies coveted more business-savvy firms–one client explaining that it gives the firm a competitive edge by being able to have a better understanding of potential risks and gains.
Read the full article at The American Lawyer.
The world’s largest law firms are still feeling the heat from their stagnated approaches, as discussed in last week’s post. A report released by CounselLink concluded that firms with 201 to 500 attorneys–termed “large enough” firms–are “increasingly winning the market share at the expense of the largest U.S. law firms.”
CounselLink Strategic Consulting Director Kris Satkunas suggests that the success of these ‘large enough’ firms is generally due to lower billing rates (for similar levels of service) and the increased willingness to engage in AFAs, the ‘Alternative Fee Arrangements’ widely preferred by clients today. She reports that as a result, corporate clients are “finding the same value from this size law firm for less or at least more predictable costs–and that is driving the migration of legal work into this segment of the law firm market.”
This trend is exemplified in the recent layoffs by megafirm Reed Smith, a 1750+ attorney firm who laid off 45 lawyers and a “comparable” number of administrative staff in January 2016, according to their press statement. Sandy Thomas, the global managing partner at Reed Smith who gave the statement, blamed the layoffs on the “fundamental shift in the nature of the demand for, and the delivery of, legal services in recent years.”
Another ‘big law’ firm, global giant Dentons, (now, with a 6,600 employee headcount, the largest law firm in the world), has been the subject of skepticism for its continued ‘bigger is better’ growth philosophy. Jordan Furlong of global law firm consultancy Law21 argues that since there are already many multinational firms, “having dozens of offices and thousands of lawyers isn’t enough to set you apart, and I’m not sure if 80 offices and 8,000 lawyers will do it either” (as quoted in The American Lawyer).
Time will tell if “bigger really is better” for today’s law firms, but for now, all signs seem to point to an ideal amalgamation of factors for middle market firms to flourish.
Professor Heidi Gardner of Harvard Law School presented her research at the 20th Annual Law Firm Leaders Forum in early October, where she discussed why law firms should encourage collaboration among firm partners in order to increase innovation and development.
Sean Doherty of Above the Law highlights the key points of her talk, noting two trends that lend themselves to partner collaboration: first, the increasing complexity of law, which requires lawyers to specialize and work in discrete practice groups, and also the engagement in the “volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) phenomena” that is often used to coordinate business spanning multiple disciplines.
As part of her research, Gardner interviewed law firm clients about the importance of partner collaboration within the firms, and found that clients believed that such collaboration increased the efficiency, cost-effectiveness, geographic reach, and innovation of the legal services, as well as led to a more complex understanding of the client’s enterprise.
Gardner posits that collaboration will be largely beneficial to firms over time, despite initial costs. Doherty reports Gardner’s list of benefits from collaboration to include “more successful business development, higher personal productivity, enhanced reputation, and ‘sticky’ (read: loyal) customers.”