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Myth of collective knowledge within anthropomorphized law firms

One often reads about law firms, when they represent a company broadly and over time, in terms that are anthropomorphic. “The law firm knows the client,” “the firm responded quickly,” “the firm and the law department have bonded.” Nonetheless, a firm is nothing more than a group of people.

Comprehensive insight into a corporation may happen within the context of a large deal, but over time and in normal circumstances, I question how much partners with a law firm, let alone associates, pool their knowledge of a particular client. Law firms organized by substantive legal areas create silos and congeal knowledge; knowledge doesn’t diffuse.

Then, add in the inevitable departures of lawyers and their shifting responsibilities toward other clients, and the presumed collective knowledge pool of the law firm starts to leak. Clients do not want to pay for lawyers in a firm to combine their knowledge of the company other than during a specific deal.

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