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“Hire the lawyer but attach to the firm,” especially large firms

At a conference I attended, one of the panelists extended the commonplace about hiring a lawyer. He said that an individual lawyer might be the catalyst for a retention (“We like Chris.”) , but over time, the plenary capabilities of the firm attach it like ivy on an old wall.

When I learned that at the end of 2004 the number of US-based law firms with more than 400 lawyers had reached 92; that the 20 largest firms averaged nearly 1,400 lawyers; it hit home how much attachment these huge collections of legal talent could affix. Departments hire a lead lawyer, but over time grappling hooks hold the firm and department together. (See also my posts of April 18, 2005 on attitudes of law departments toward large firms,May 10, 2005 on behemoth firms, and Oct. 23, 2005 regarding large-firm overhead.)

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