As with all business, law firms come in many shapes and sizes. On one end of the spectrum are the big law firms; their large and fancy offices filled with lawyers of varying backgrounds, an army of staff people, and loads of operating expenses to match. At the other end of the spectrum are the solo practitioners; single attorney offices with few staff people, streamlined and efficient, but with fewer financial resources. There are plusses and minuses to each – and making the right choice for your case is hugely important.
People determined to hire a big law firm usually cite a few reasons for doing so. Some appreciate the big firm’s name “cachet” – believing that the firm’s name on the letterhead might somehow sway the opposing party into a better deal, or the court to look more favorably at the case. But there is little truth to support those assumptions. In reality, it’s the lawyer himself or herself, who has earned the respect and recognition of opposing counsel and judges. As Above The Law wrote in this blog post, regardless of what firm you hire, you’re choosing a lawyer – not the law firm.
Others pick a big firm because it has a lot of lawyers. But just because a big firm has lots of lawyers doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s better suited to handle your case. Though there might be 20 lawyers at the firm, when only one or two specialize in your type of case there’s really no advantage to picking the bigger firm. Still others will hire a big firm simply so they can claim to have hired “the biggest and best,” so when there’s a bad result they can convince themselves that it wasn’t because of their own poor choice.
Instead of worrying about losing, why not aim higher? Consider these reasons why a smaller firm might be right for you:
- Hire the best person (not just lawyer) for you.
The single most important consideration when hiring a lawyer is your confidence and trust in the person who will be handling your case. When hiring a small or solo law firm, you will be working directly with the lawyer that you’ve hired for your case. He or she will be your main point of contact, dedicated to your case at all stages, with a thorough grasp of the intracacies of your case, from beginning to end. This is different from a larger law firm, where it’s not uncommon for different lawyers to handle the case at different stages – with young associates often doing much of the work “behind the scenes.”
- Consider the level of personal attention you need.
When you choose a smaller law firm for your case, your attorney will get to know you just as well as they know your case. It’s a level of personal attention that larger firms often cannot provide. The truth is, big firms typically have more cases and more clients – which also means they have more people to deal with and more calls and more emails to return. Small firms have a greater opportunity to provide personal attention to every client, and the case itself is more important to its own success.
- Customization for you and your case.
If you decide to hire a larger firm, you’ll have to fit into the way they routinely do things. Although the big firm has more lawyers at its disposal, they’re also dealing with multiple high-stress cases at the same time. And that means they have less time for each individual case, which results in using routine cookie-cutter strategies. But with a smaller firm, the lawyer has more time to dedicate to one-on-one review and analysis with their cases, while building personal relationships with each of their clients.
- Do you want a “traditional” law firm, or one that pushes the edge of what law practice can do for its clients?
It used to be true that big law firms were the only ones with enough money to afford comprehensive legal libraries and software to run a law practice. But times have changed, and technology has leveled the playing field. Nowadays, everyone has access to the same cases, statutes and rules – and cost isn’t even a factor.
In fact, it’s usually the big firms that have been reluctant to change with the times. They’re notoriously risk-averse and tend to do things the same way they always have. Small law firms, however – with their greater flexibility – are better positioned to harness new technologies and new strategies in their work.
When hiring a law firm, consider asking your lawyer what technology they use to improve efficiencies and streamline their law practice. Consider asking them if they use electronic files with document-scanning technology, or if they still use cumbersome and time-consuming paper files. Ask if they have an electronic case management system. Ask if they use automation and how that gives them more time to focus on your case. Ask if they can work from anywhere, or if they’re tied to the office.
Then, consider what kind of law firm you’d be working with, and whether they’re on the forefront of law practice or just limping along behind it.
Of course, not all big law firms are bad, and sometimes they really can be the right choice. But don’t be too quick to jump on the big law bandwagon. When it’s time to hire a lawyer, consider whether a small law firm might actually be a better fit for you.
Beaupre Law is a modern firm that prioritizes the needs of its clients, by improving the client experience and measuring itself based upon client satisfaction. Our technology solutions help to maximize efficiency and automate workflows. It all results in a modern firm that puts clients first: in the office and in the courtroom.