Law firms come in many sizes and characteristics. Some are solo practitioners. And some are behemoths of hundreds of lawyers and 10s of offices. Today my plan is to tell you 6 things you should know about the behemoths.
- The lawyer you hire is not the one who does most of the work. Odds are that you will have become interested in the firm because of the expertise of a particular partner, or because you know a partner outside the firm. His or her billing rate as a partner will, however, be very high. If that partner were to do all the work on the case it would be prohibitively expensive. Instead of working on your case, the partner will assign and direct associates and paralegals to do most of the work. The partner will direct the work—and charge a lot for that—but other people will do the work. If that is alright with you go ahead and hire the big firm, but keep in mind that in a local firm the partner would give more attention to your case.
- Big firms tend to have high billable hour requirements, creating an incentive to pad billing. I have written on this before, but many big firms have inhumanely high billable hour quotas. Associates and junior partners can find these requirements overwhelming. If your case is big, an extra tenth or two of billable time on each entry will be hard to notice. In saying this I do not mean to impugn the profession. I’m only saying that the problem does exist.
- Big firms have multiple offices doing a wide variety of things. For example, the firm would do securities and business law while also doing litigation. A big firm has the advantage of being a one stop shop.
- Big firms have multi-state offices and huge resources. They can handle the biggest legal problems, such as multi-state litigation.
- Big firms are expensive. They have high overhead, and the associates and partners who have committed to big firm practice expect to make a lot of money. Billing rates are high, as are hours recorded.
- Make an intelligent choice. Before you choose a big firm, you should consider whether your problem could be better handled by a good medium sized firm in the market. You should also consider whether there is a lawyer not in a big firm who is better suited to handle your problem. Many top trial attorneys are on their own or in smaller firms. If you want a lawyer that has done a lot of trials, rather than just done a lot of motions and discovery, this is the direction that you will want to go. In this event, the big firm could do backup work for the trial lawyer.
About Foundation In Law
Over a long career as a practicing attorney, Frank Hammond came to realize many prospective legal clients do not know much about lawyering and lawyers – how they work, how fees are set, and how to deal with them. Beginning attorneys also often have little notion of what actual practice involves. This blog is meant to be a guide for both.
Disclaimer: The Foundation in Law blog is not intended to provide legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship will arise as a result of interacting with this blog. You are advised to consult with your own attorney regarding legal questions. The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author alone. The author is licensed only to practice in the State of Oregon.