It is my belief that most law department lawyers hire a partner first and think of the partner’s firm second. Were I to quantify my impression, I would give 70 percent to the determining influence of the partner. Most in-house counsel who select outside counsel practice in a particular area, such as employment or environmental, so they have little occasion to meet a partner from the same firm who specializes in a different area.
On this logic, therefore, there has to be receptivity to cross-selling at a higher level in a law department. The general counsel, for example, has to consider another partner from the same firm and be willing to give that partner a try. It also suggests that the attractiveness of retaining a broader selection of partners from a firm depends on an overall impression about the quality of the law firm. If Partner A is good, her partner in another area is probably also good.
Thus, cross-selling implies that the ratio between attractiveness of the firm and attractiveness of the partner shifts, say to 50-50 between partner and firm. There is also the latent idea in using a firm more broadly that if the firm obtains more work from a law department – across a spectrum of practices – the firm will collectively know more about the client’s business and may also be amenable to billing arrangements more favorable to the law department.