Death By A Thousand Small Cuts?

The spiral continues as the WSJ takes a look at how small and mid-sized firms are taking away business from the BigLaw dinosaurs:

John Quinn, a founder of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges, LLP, a 400-lawyer business-litigation firm based in Los Angeles, acknowledges there's been something of a switch to small firms. But he says there are limits to what sorts of work corporations would pitch to previously untapped shops. "For the major cases, clients will still be looking for the most experienced firms, who have shown that they can handle this sort," he says. "I don't think that will change."

Still, some work is going to smaller firms. Hit hard by slumping auto sales, AutoNation Inc., the largest car-dealership chain in the U.S., has had to rein in spending. So the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., company recently handed the legal work for its move across town to Angelo & Banta PA, a South Florida firm of just seven lawyers.

Jon Ferrando, AutoNation's general counsel, says he typically would have hired a larger firm for such a matter. In this case, though, he sought a firm that knew the region well and charged less than a big firm.

AutoNation saved 20% to 25% on fees by retaining Angelo & Banta, Mr. Ferrando says. Angelo & Banta managing shareholder Tom Angelo says his firm charges $200-$495 an hour for work done by senior partners.

Hey, I know Tom!

Congrats buddy, but take my advice -- get a large retainer (we're talking about AutoNation here).

I have to agree with Guest Blogger, while there is undoubtedly some shifting going on, and I know anecdotally of several cases going to smaller firms that otherwise might have went to the big boys and girls, there is also some overstatement involved.

Certain businesses will always hire larger firms, in part because of a built-in conservatism that
causes decision-makers to be risk-adverse. It's hard to question the hire when things go wrong if you pick a large, established firm to defend you. On the other hand, you expose yourself to criticism if you pick a smaller firm and something does go awry.

That's just the corporate culture at work, and that will never change.

Of course, the South Florida legal market is slightly different, in that many well-established and successful litigators lead their own firms, or are part of smaller firms, where the risk of hire is less and the lawyer can craft a fee arrangement with more flexibility than, say, at White & Case.

BTW, our friends at Riptide lay out the SexyLexus emails here -- all I can say is these people could learn a few things from Mark Sanford.

Remember, if you are sexting with someone you lust, presume your love notes will be posted online eventually so please try to bring your 'A' game.

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