During the past three decades, I've heard many clichés about the legal industry. One of them is that companies hire the lawyer and not the law firm. I think this one is often still true, but, for the first time in my career, I am noticing that this cliché is no longer as applicable as it used to be. This change is happening both at law firms and at litigation consulting firms like ours.
It's true there are some special lawyers out there, particularly trial lawyers. Many of them can be recognized by their first names only, like Beth, David, and Brendan. To be sure, these trial lawyers are extraordinary. They are the go-to lawyers for in-house counsel when the stakes are highest – among other things, because they win cases reliably, even when the facts are not on their side.
Guess what though? Things are changing, and it’s no longer so common that a single lawyer controls a relationship. I hear this from my recruiter firms and I observe it in person. Even as recently as 10 years ago, most lawyers could move from firm to firm and retain 90 percent or more of their clients. No more.
Now, I’m seeing law firms taking steps to build their brands and spread work around to many lawyers once a relationship is built. And if a corporation is working with a dozen or more lawyers and one lawyer departs -- even the one who began the relationship -- sometimes the clients are sticking with the law firm.
This reflects a trend that I’ve seen in firms like ours and leading law firms for several years now. In the early days of our firm, some 22 years ago, clients insisted on working with me personally. Now, most clients don't know that I exist. They want to work with A2L, the company. While A2L’s clients may have enjoyed working with a particular litigation consultant, trial technician or artist in the past, most have learned that as new people join the firm, they are imbued with our culture of excellence. These qualities of client service and outstanding skill have never been restricted to a particular person.
This same trend is taking hold in law firms. No longer does one individual control the relationship. Brands finally matter.
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