AVAILABLE OPPORTUNITIES (312) 781-9000

The American Lawyer reports on several key trends for midsize law firms heading into 2019, according to a recent article featured in Am Law’s latest Mid-Market Report. In the article written by Alan Tarter, he provides his thoughts on industry trends affecting mid-size law firms in the coming year based on his many years of experience as a managing partner and practicing lawyer. These trends include a heightened focus on cybersecurity, continued lateral acquisitions, cost-effective specialization, providing innovative programming to all team members, and greater collaboration between large and small firms.

According to the article, Tarter notes that midsize law firms, like their brethren at large firms, will continue to put an increased focus on mitigation of cyber risk through enhanced security, protocols and more sophisticated risk management. We will see greater use of outside risk management consultants working directly with mid- size firms to address new risks and gaps on coverages. In addition, competition for the best candidates has increased, so midsize firms will need to be even more creative in their offerings. Midsize firms will need to better exploit their value propositions to clients in order to attract laterals from larger firms, Tarter adds. 

Tarter notes that an added value proposition of full-service, midsize firms is that they are able to fill in the gaps in the specialized legal needs of both larger firms and smaller firms. According to Tarter, larger clients will continue to gravitate to midsize firms for certain types of work. “Midsize firms are in a unique position to provide more cost-effective, efficient services in matters not requiring large firm infrastructures. For example, midsize firms may be in a better position to provide more cost- effective services in specialized areas such as construction law, office space leasing or IP prosecution where larger teams and multiple offices are typically not necessary. In-house clients are becoming aware of the advantages of using midsize law firms for legal work like this,” explains Tarter.

Tarter adds that midsize firms have a unique opportunity to lead the industry in developing innovative programming to enhance the professional development of employees. These types of programs will help midsize firms stand out from their competitors, and will aid in attracting and retaining employees. These programs should place a greater emphasis on the longer-term professional development of attorneys and other team members. With the goal of providing the most value-driven services to clients, firms of all sizes are also realizing the benefits of partnering with each other, Tarter notes. You will see greater collaboration between large firms and midsize firms in working on projects together where they can each do what they do best and provide better service to clients, (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

See highlights from the full article on The American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

Certain Midwest and second-tier markets, in terms of population, have garnered particular interest from large law firms, especially those that serve middle-market clients, reports Lizzy McLellan of The American Lawyer. According to statistics from AmLaw’s latest NLJ 500 survey, the number of lawyers at NLJ 500 firms grew by 100 or more in each of the Washington State, Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan markets.

“There are a lot of firms that started out in the secondary, tertiary markets that now have offices in lots of other secondary, tertiary markets,” notes Mary K. Young of the Zeughauser Group. When those firms make entry to a new market, she adds, they often acquire or take from smaller local firms that would not have made it onto the NLJ 500 on their own, (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

David Barnard of Blaqwell Inc. also notes that small firms based in smaller markets are increasingly looking for merger opportunities. “Specialization is continuing. It’s no longer possible to do everything. It’s just too tough,” he said. So small practices have to choose their strengths and double down there. After doing that, he says, “the lawyers in those towns are combining so they can offer full service to local clients and maintain their livelihood,” (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

See highlights from the full article on The American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

The American Lawyer reports on a mistaken and dangerous belief pervading the current U.S. legal market: that it is consolidating as larger firms grow more quickly than the market by taking share from their smaller rivals. However, an in-depth analysis of Am Law data over the last 20 years reveals that in fact consolidation is not happening. Rather, worldwide revenue growth from larger firms expanding overseas has been mistaken for consolidation of market share.

In Am Law’s latest article, Debunking the Consolidation Myth, the authors argue that the mistaken perception of consolidation has driven firms to bulk up—by merging, acquiring and hiring laterally—to avoid being at a competitive disadvantage. Such moves are high-risk, disruptive distractions for leaders whose attention is better focused elsewhere. Despite the intense effort involved, they create no strategic advantage. Wise partner groups and firm leaders will see past the prevailing dogma and focus instead on optimizing the performance of organically growing businesses, (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

In a tightly argued analysis, the authors conclude that “Consolidation is not happening. The imperative for law firms to grow is groundless. Smaller firms that don’t expand internationally are not losing share; in fact, they’ve gained share through the Great Recession. The data could not be clearer. And yet we know that this simple truth will be ignored. Facts are an ineffective counterweight to long-held belief. It’s too bad. Running a U.S.-centered, organically growing law firm well is a strategy with enormous validity and tremendous potential for strong profit growth.”

See highlights from the full article on The American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

Law firm mergers remained robust during the first quarter of 2018, with a strong outlook for cross-border combinations, according to a recent report by legal consultancy firm Fairfax Associates. In the first quarter of 2018, Fairfax tracked 20 completed mergers, which counts combinations once they are completed. According to the report, this number is slightly lower than the 22 mergers completed during the same time last year, however, is still on par with historical averages.

Despite a fairly quiet cross-border merger market in the first few months of 2018, Fairfax principal Lisa Smith notes that there continues to be a lot of interest in combinations that transcend national boundaries. “We see an awful lot of interest from particularly U.K. firms continuing to look at the U.S. market, but U.S. firms also continuing to look at their international strategies,” Smith said. “I think that’s a continuing big trend,” (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

On the domestic front, many mergers completed within the first quarter were smaller or at the regional level. Nearly 75 percent of the firms involved had between five and 20 lawyers, according to Fairfax, with the largest purely domestic tie-up being between Ballard Spahr and Minneapolis-based Lindquist & Vennum, a union that became effective on Jan. 2. “We see a mix of a lot of smaller firm acquisitions, many of which are smaller mid-sized firms combining with other smaller mid-sized firms,” Smith said (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

See highlights from the full report and article on The American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

Frustration with high legal fees and demand for local regulatory knowledge may give small and medium-sized law firms an edge with larger clients, according to a survey reported by The American Lawyer. The survey, released by the Economist Intelligence Unit and business-to-business marketplace Globality, found that multinational companies are seeing benefits in working with small and medium-sized firms because they can offer the same quality of legal advice at more reasonable prices.

According to the report, smaller firms can be more cost-effective because they have lower overheads, allowing them to charge more moderate rates. As a result, they are able to provide the same legal expertise at a lower cost. They can also often provide regional or specialized expertise because they focus on providing services in a specialized community or area of the law. That can be appealing for multinational organizations that may have legal issues in different international jurisdictions [as quoted by Globality].

“Companies often highlight that they like the personalized experience and top-level attention from senior lawyers that smaller providers can bring to them, which is something that larger law firms need to determine how to emulate,” notes Stefan Zorn, Vice President of Customer Success at Globality.

See highlights from the full article and survey on The American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

In-House Counsel at large international companies experience greater satisfaction when working with small or medium sized firms, according to a new survey reported on The American Lawyer. The survey, released by The Lawyer Research Service in collaboration with Globality, found respondents at large global companies are three times more dissatisfied working with larger law firms (19%) than smaller ones (6%).

Of the 71% of respondents that outsource the majority of work to smaller firms, nearly two-thirds (63%) report smaller firms provide better client service and almost half (40%) find smaller firms to be more innovative than traditional Big Law firms. Additionally, companies are becoming increasingly turned off by large firms due to their high prices, with over half of survey respondents saying their primary frustration when working with larger law firms is cost.

“We get better client service from smaller firms. When we instruct larger firms, we are probably one of their smaller customers and just another customer in the long list they already have. If you go to a smaller firm, even with a fairly small legal spend, we can be an important customer to them,” said Ben Woolf, General Counsel EMEA at Tate & Lyle, a U.K.-based multinational agribusiness, in a press release announcing the survey results.

See highlights from the full article on The American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.