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Reputation represents expectations based on a law firm’s past behavior; status reflects position in a hierarchy of value

I modified the header from a quote in an article to be published by Mitt Regan, Co-Director of the Center for the Study of the Legal Profession. The article discusses offshoring legal services (at 113) and whether distinguished firms fear to tarnish their reputations if they stoop to using offshore resources. Part of Regan’s comments revolve are his perception that law departments today rely less on reputation and status and more on objective, quantifiable assessments. “Firms also may believe that clients are starting to rely more on metrics than reputation or status in evaluating law firms’ services.” These metrics include internal rating systems, external league tables and comments, and benchmarks.

Some slight inroads may have been made by metrics, but overwhelmingly subjective impressions about a firm and its services carry the day. A reputation, however earned and manifested, and a firm’s status, whatever ranking ladder is used, means a great deal when a general counsel calls a firm (See my post of Nov. 14, 2005: survey and reputation as an attribute; March 13, 2006: partner reputation more important than firm reputation in survey; May 4, 2007: general counsel don’t hire a law firm because of the firm’s “prestige”; May 23, 2007: firm’s reputation makes a difference, but it must sway senior executives; Dec. 17, 2007: incumbent advantages; Jan. 21, 2008: unconvincing difference between brand and reputation; Sept. 12, 2008: the ethical reputation of a law firm; March 25, 2009: more survey rankings of reputation; and Jan. 5, 2010: corporate citizenship and ethical standards as part of reputation.).