Clients have the smallest law firm panels in 15 years. A typical large company now relies on 36 law firms—down from 47 firms last year. This marks the second year in a row of the shrinking law firm panel. Despite the new low, corporate counsel report no plans to stop trimming their law firm rosters. Larger companies dropped 2 major law firms—and 9 smaller players—from their rosters.
Cherry Picking Is The New Beauty Pageant
Corporate counsel have shrinking time and inclination to watch a group of law firms strut their stuff. As a result, we hear little of the beauty pageants so prevalent 10 short years ago. Clients are basing hiring decisions on their daily experiences with these firms; meaning hiring decisions are based on your ongoing behavior instead of your qualifications and pitch.
Replacing Firms Ever So Slowly
60% of clients added one new firm to the now smaller rosters. This masks how deep the cuts actually are. GCs have been slowly interviewing a very small group of law firms. These top decision makers are testing your thoughts and client service with brainstorming, asking for opinions on current matters and engaging in substantive conversation. Clients want to see exactly how far you will go—and how fast—before they make a hire. These informal and extended conversations can span 5 to 8 months—but launch newly hired firms right into the core work.
Slow, Unannounced Dismissal
Clients stop awarding work to the firms who do not meet ever-rising expectations. Corporate counsel will wait a few months at best—then, no warnings or discussions—just a slow tail off in work. The only hints you will have are the lack of new business, or less client-initiated engagement.
Do You Like Roller Coasters?
Clients have expanded their law firm rosters in 7 out of the last 15 years. They have cut rosters in 8. Law firm rosters have been pruned for the last 2 years. We expect to see clients continue to add and delete law firms as needs change and law firms change—or don't change—as the case may be. The successful law firms know clients are always changing their line ups—bringing in new and different competition—and are developing strategies to keep and grow these relationships before others ever think about getting in the door.