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Hire the firm or hire the lawyer?

Like many disjunctives, the excluded middle comes closer to the truth. A general counsel leans toward a name brand law firm for matters that put the general counsel at serious risk. No top lawyer furthers his career by pinching dimes but pouring outside counsel fees down the hole of a lost case or failed acquisition.

For more routine work, with lower risks, general counsel – or more likely the direct reports who actually choose which firm to retain – usually think in terms of hiring a particular lawyer, regardless of that lawyer’s firm.

When law firms talk of laterally hiring a new partner, they assume the partner’s clients will follow. “Our firm just hired Chris Jones, who brings a book of business of $2.5 million.” The hiring law firms put their trust in the accuracy of “hire the lawyer.” The opposite of what happened in Jerry McGuire. But firms also market the firm as a whole, putting their trust in branding. Hence, the choice we started with is in fact a spectrum.