There’s Always a Silver Lining

Samira Mery Lineberger, Esq.
 
“Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles; it empties today of its strengths.”        Unknown

With the economy at its lowest point in decades, the legal industry is taking its share of the brunt.  More and more firms are downsizing, some in drastic measures and still law schools are turning out new graduates in record numbers.  So what’s a lawyer to do?  Start an emergency fund and hunker down until things get better?  That’s certainly an option.  It’s all in how you look at it.

Economic turmoil is not pleasant, but with turmoil there is always opportunity, and the opportunity for small to mid-size firms to build their commercial business is better than ever.  Companies are tightening their belts, looking for better, more affordable legal services.  A recent study by BTI Consulting, a leader in legal industry research, suggests that now is the time for small to mid-size firms to ramp up their marketing efforts to go after big company legal business.  According to BTI research, companies are moving away from big firm services in favor of the more affordable and flexible services offered by small to mid-size firms.  In fact, the nation’s top 100 revenue generating law firms went from servicing 64% of the 550 large companies surveyed in 2007, to only 36% in 2008.  The next 100 firms picked up some of the top 100 losses moving from 13% of the business in 2007 to 26% in 2008.  But big gains in market share also went to those firms under the top 200, who went from 26% in 2007 to 38% in 2008.  Why the shift?  More and more companies are looking at innovative ways to stretch their legal dollars.  Smaller firms not saddled by big associate salaries, heavy personnel infrastructures, and considerable overhead have the flexibility to offer more innovative billing practices, staffing and communication.

So what does this mean?  There has never been a better chance for small to mid-size firms to break the glass ceiling and pick up some of that premium legal work.  Not only does the recent economic crisis encourage large companies to look for cheaper alternatives now, it will also go a long way to breaking the pattern of many executives who feel compelled to go with the big name firms, if only to cover themselves should their hiring decision be questioned.  Companies are no longer expected to stick with the big boys, and in fact, there is a shift in the mood toward greater appreciation of executives who are innovative and willing to make smarter legal service choices.

What should you do to capitalize on this opportunity?  BTI research suggests that expensive marketing campaigns are not necessary.  Turns out that the combination of traditional and cyber networking, expert positioning through association activity, speaking engagements and white paper publication can get you there… i.e. good old fashioned elbow grease.  How’s that for a silver lining??