by Ken Lopez
Imagine a world in which the best trial lawyers work in small boutique litigation firms and charge clients half of current rates. Many people have imagined such a world for a long time, and even though we're not there yet, we're closer than we used to be.
Today, a few of these smaller firms do exist. They are being run by some of the world's best trial lawyers, and these lawyers do in fact charge a lot less than they used to. However, this does not represent a new type of law firm; this type of firm has always existed. After a while, these firms either become large law firms with a refreshed culture of entrepreneurialism (e.g. Boies Schiller) or they get absorbed into a big law firm (e.g. Bancroft LLP into Kirkland & Ellis).
Only a small handful of firms have found something of a middle ground and are able to deliver large law firm results without a lawyer headcount in the thousands (e.g. Bartlit Beck and Williams & Connolly). Working closely with boutique law firms as we do, I see that large companies are getting much of what they hoped for. They get exceptional lawyering, better rates, and that big-firm swagger that unmistakably contributes to winning cases. There are some gaps, however, and the best of these firms acknowledge it and fill it with litigation consultants.
It turns out that sometimes the resources and scale of a large law firm are precisely what is needed to overwhelm and overrun an opponent. A large enough army can always overrun even the most elite small special forces team. However, this is only true if the elite group does not have a means of bringing in more support on a moment's notice. The best in-house departments see this nimbleness as a strength.
Our litigation consulting firm is often called upon to serve in this role. So here are 12 ways that we can make a litigation boutique as powerful as a very large law firm.
- We help keep prices down. If you're a big law firm, built into every hour billed is a cost for marketing, all those offices, and all that support staff. That is not true for a small firm. The small firm does not need to keep full-time staff on hand for services that are more efficiently outsourced (e.g. litigation graphics, trial technician services, and other trial consulting services). See 17 Reasons Why Litigation Consultants Are Better at Graphics Than Law Firms.
- We amplify the skills of the best members of the trial team. Part of our role for many of the top trial lawyers is to help them hone their skill set. See Your Coach Is Not Better Than You – in the Courtroom or Elsewhere.
- We amplify the skills of other members of the trial team. In the new litigation boutiques, there are often a handful of superstars, but there are always some lawyers who can benefit from learning the best practices of the best trial lawyers. Firms like A2L are in a unique position to transfer skills from one top trial team to another. See How to Get Great Results From a Good Lawyer.
- We free up the busiest trial lawyers to do what they do best. When you're one of the elite, management of your time is essential. Saying "no" and letting go becomes the new "yes." See How Valuable is Your Time vs. Litigation Support's Time?
- We provide a sounding board. In a big law firm, peers are everywhere and you can easily bounce ideas off of a colleague down the hall. In the boutique litigation law firm, that is not as easy. Litigation consultants provide feedback that can help develop the best narrative and theme of the case. See, Storytelling for Litigators: Building a Great Narrative for Judge & Jury.
- We provide mock-trial services. Law firms are almost never in the best position to provide these services, but that does not stop some large law firms from trying to do so. Conducting mock trials in a professional and scientifically proven manner makes a client forget they are dealing with a small law firm. See 11 Problems with Mock Trials and How to Avoid Them.
- We help provide boutique trial lawyer firms with the motivation to practice. Practice is absolutely indispensable to winning at trial. A litigation consultant helps remind the boutique trial lawyer to practice their presentation in a supportive environment focused on winning. See 3 Ways to Force Yourself to Practice Your Trial Presentation.
- We provide large law firm style litigation graphics. It is an accepted truth that the appearance of litigation graphics can affect how persuasive they are. Clients and, oddly enough, judges and juries, have come to expect a certain level of professionalism in their litigation graphics. Litigation consultants help ensure that litigation graphics meet best-practice levels. See Why Expensive-Looking Litigation Graphics Are Better.
- We provide large law firm style trial technology support services. Although top-notch technology support can be viewed as expensive, it more than repays itself in terms of the value to the client. See What Does Using a Trial Technician or Hot-Seater Cost?
- We help prepare witnesses. Preparation makes all the difference between an expert witness who wows the jury and one who has little effect or even a negative effect on jurors’ perceptions of the case. Outsourcing witness preparation can free up scarce resources in the boutique trial lawyer firm and allow the relationship between lawyer and expert to remain untarnished. See Witness Preparation: Hit or Myth?
- We support jury selection. Jury selection is still underrated in terms of its effect on the eventual verdict. Conducting effective voir dire is also time-consuming. Litigation consultants can readily ease this burden. See Jury Selection and Voir Dire: Don't Ask, Don't Know and Download our free Voir Dire Handbook.
- We provide innovative pricing options. Our willingness to provide innovating pricing (i.e. flat-rate pricing, ceilings, etc.) allows a small boutique to offer the same types of value a large law firm can offer a client. See 12 Alternative Fee Arrangements We Use and You Could Too.