LexisNexis Martindale-Hubble, using Cogent Research, obtained responses from 635 in-house counsel, 461 of which were from the United States (Counsel to Counsel, March 2006 at 15). Of the nine criteria available for selection, the first ranked was “lawyer expertise” – with 87 percent – while “firm expertise” was third at 48 percent. [I am unsure of the methodology, because the percentages total 288, so it appears respondents could choose more than one factor.]
Even for high-stakes matters, which presumably could include staff-intensive projects like major M&A or class actions, the lead partner’s prowess is valued twice that of the partner’s firm. Further confirmation of the criticality of the partner relative to the firm is found in the fourth-rated factor, “lawyer reputation” at 34 percent. It came in well ahead of “firm reputation” at 24 percent.
When law departments must put their heads on the block, they look for rescue not to a faceless firm and its luster but to an individual lawyer’s expertise and renown.