An article posted at Law.com today entitled, Bye-Bye Big Firm notes a growing trend of in-house corporate counsel hiring more small law firms – not just to cut costs, but also because of a growing preference to hire based on specialty rather than size.

As the article notes, small law firms are flourishing because client demands have evolved over the past decade.  Legal services have become “unbundled,” and clients are increasingly choosing different firms for different needs. 

While the financial downturn may have spurred this trend, clients say that cost is not the only reason they choose to think small. They point to a lack of conflicts and personal attention as two big advantages in choosing a small firm. 

Lawyers are catching on to this trend and leaving big firms to start their own practices in increasing numbers. According to a 2010 Am Law report, 114 partners left Am Law 200 firms to start or join small practices from October 2008 through September 2009 — up from 70 partners in the previous 12-month period.

As consultant Peter Zeughauser notes in the article, "There’s more and more pressure on firms to be distinctive in the marketplace. Lawyers are picking practice areas to be known for, and eventually that means they’ll go to small firms as a platform to grow their practices."

In a recent post, I described 4 ways small firms can successfully differentiate themselves in How to Discover Your Difference & Drive Great Clients to Your Door. The benefits from positioning yourself as a specialist are numerous, including:

  • Significantly higher rate of referrals.
  • Can charge higher rates.
  • More opportunities to offer them more expensive services.
  • Better client retention.
  • Not perceived as a commodity.
  • Value is based primarily on credibility and expertise.
  • Better positioned to get positive media coverage.
  • Easier to dominate your niche.

With the growth in small law firms, effective and focused law firm marketing is now more necessary than ever.

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