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Law Firm Mergers: Opportunity for Small Law Amid Big Law Shake-Ups

With increasing numbers of large law firm mergers, where do individual lawyers fit into the mix?

A piece last week in the Wall Street Journal, “Big Law Mergers Fuel Skepticism,” caught our eye. In the wake of big law firm mergers and restructuring, many talented attorneys have found themselves on the outside looking in, much to the displeasure of the clients they’ve worked with for years. The piece raises some interesting questions: As large, traditional firms reorganize for greater profitability, what does that mean for individual lawyers, and how does the level of service change for clients?

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At LawBank, our members are solo attorneys or small-firm leaders who are focused on niche markets and hands-on client care. According to the WSJ article, clients seem to favor expertise over size, which is good news for small law firms.

“Size mattered least, earning a rating of 1.48 on a scale of 1 to 3 (three being the most important),” wrote WSJ reporter Jennifer Smith.

The article quoted Fortune 100 leaders from companies like CVS, Hewlett-Packard and IBM.

“When I talk to my colleagues, we are all still fairly much aligned on the idea that we hire lawyers, not law firms,” said John Schultz, general counsel for HP.

There are many drivers for mergers among large, multi-national law firms, including expansion of service offerings and cost savings, but a big downside for individual attorneys is the layoffs that can happen in the process. Last week, Above the Law reported on one high-profile round of layoffs at Patton Boggs, and BigLaw.org keeps a running tally of layoffs on its blog.

In another WSJ article, Jennifer Smith wrote:
“So what’s driving the cuts? The march of technology—lawyers who type their own emails and write up their own briefs may not need full-time administrative support—and the need to trim expenses at a time when many firms are struggling for business.”

This uncertain environment can leave attorneys feeling less secure in their roles at large firms, and going solo has become a viable option for many attorneys who have been laid off.

In this new legal market, why not open a small shop and focus on your preferred area of law? LawBank members often say that the freedom to focus on a specific expertise is one of the most attractive aspects of running a solo or small firm law practice. The beauty of doing so in a space like LawBank is that, while you may be an independent lawyer, you are not alone. You have the benefit of a fully equipped professional office and a receptionist, as well as peers who can offer advice, tips and support.

Learn more about the benefits of co-working at LawBank.

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