As I contemplated the enormity of DLAPiper, soon to top the law firm league tables of size, and other legal leviathans whose annual fees exceed $1 billion dollars, it struck me that many corporate clients can only aspire to such earnings. As a proof, in my 2010 benchmark report there were 374 participating law departments that reported their company’s revenues in 2009 as less than $1 billion. In other words, about 40 percent of the respondents, each of whom supports internal lawyers, were smaller than the largest law firms.
How much leverage do companies have over a law firm that earns more than they do? Are demands for alternative fees, discounts, and special offers addressed to deaf ears of giants? Those questions overstate what may be the more realistic point: an individual partner cares deeply about new clients and fees originated, so the matchup is more like company versus individual lawyer. That said, talk about a buyer’s market needs to take into account the relative economic clout of the players in the market.