A book based on interviews of 787 Chicago lawyers in 1994-5, “Urban Lawyers: The New Social Structure of the Bar,” offers some data that is meaningful for law department managers (Legalaffairs, Nov./Dec. 2005 at 61). “Partners at major law firms told the study’s authors that approximately one-third of all proposed clients had to be referred outside the firm because of conflicts between the interests of the proposed clients and existing clients.” (id at 62) One supposes litigation matters account for most of the disqualifying conflicts, but other kinds of representation may also fall afoul. Also, the smaller the law firm, presumably, the lower the odds of a conflict.
Even if you identify a lawyer at a firm that you would like to handle a matter, there is close to a 33 percent chance that conflicts will bar that lawyer from taking it on. If directionally correct today, that fact alone makes convergence of law firms exceedingly difficult.