Are BigLaw’s Increased Rates Good for Specialized Solos?

By June 26, 2007February 10th, 2020Appellate Practice

Yesterday, Texas Lawyer released the results of its annual salary and billing survey.  The accompanying article quotes a couple of corporate general counsels about how BigLaw’s ever-increasing rates may affect their choice of outside lawyers.  Comparing annual rate increases to “death and taxes, you know it’s coming every year,” one says that smaller boutique firms may get projects his company used to give to larger firms.  Another, whose legal department handles most matters in-house, says he looks for lawyers with specific expertise when hiring outside counsel and tries “to hire the lawyer, not so much the law firm.”

Many have predicted that increasing big firm rates will drive more business to specialized solos and small firms.  Common observations are that clients don’t want to pay for the extra overhead associated with large firms or to train young lawyers to whom their work might get “pushed down.”  Solos and small firms are well positioned to offer the same expertise at significantly lower hourly rates or under alternative fee arrangements that big firms have been slow to implement.

Hiring large firms is considered a “safe” choice, but it is also an expensive one.  Here’s hoping that more corporate counsel open their minds to hiring the lawyer rather than the law firm. They might just get better service at a better price.

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • I did just get my first big-company client in a year or two, and it was specifically because they did not see the need to pay biglaw prices for environmental law any more. However, as a general rule, I find (having been a partner in biglaw, then solo for almost ten years) that big companies still take the safe and easy route of hiring huge and hugely expensive big firms to “cya” the decision.
    Shell Bleiweiss

  • A rising tide lifts all boats.

  • The question is: what is a large corporate client? Are we, as solos, concerned only with the mega-corporations with in house corporate counsel? Or, is a more appropriate target a large national corporation with outside corporate counsel? Corporations without in house counsel on staff may be more amenable to the concept of specialized solos and small firms instead of inefficient big firms. For example, I work with companies in Europe and India who have other counsel here in the States — it is the corporate attorneys that found me and hired me because of my international and litigation backgrounds, not the companies.

  • This is very valid. I have talked to large companies for other reasons and when they learn what I do they will ask if I know solos or small firms that handle their matters. When I ask why the interest…it is the same, they want to talk to ‘their lawyer’ not layers of secretaries, paralegals, junior associates. They want quick turnaround time on their matters and talk to the lawyer who convinced them to hire their firm. Law firms should not be cable companies or telephone companies where you can’t get through to the person with the answers and get something done. The pricing, ironically, I believe is secondary from the informal canvassing I’ve done. It’s like the icing on the cake, not the cake.

  • Should In-House Counsel Stick with Big Firms on Appeal?

    In last week’s Fat Friday e-newsletter (available through Technolawyer), lawyer-coach Debra Bruce outlined five reasons why corporate general counsel generally stick to BigLaw, despite rumblings about how high hourly rates and associate salary increase…