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Boutique International Law Firms Rising

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Loved an article in this month’s Asia Law Business, entitled, Boutique firms gain market from general practices. I have multiple reasons for loving it. First, the headline alone is music to my ears as my law firm is, as far as I know, the only United States law firm that bills itself as an international law boutique. The article then reaffirms what I thought this recession would do, which is cause companies to move their Asia legal work to boutique law firms to decrease costs and improve services:

Companies have started pushing law firms for fee reductions and they are searching for other options to get the same level of service, without paying the highest rates in the country.”

Competitive legal fees and flexibility are the two main weapons in the specialist firms’ arsenal. Even in the US where firms have been hit hard by the crisis, specialist firms are also benefiting from the legal market ‘shifts.’ Although Harris Bricken — a US-based international law practice that focuses on Asia and Europe — did feel the economic downturn in early 2009, it has recorded record high revenue every single month since March, 2009. “That’s largely due to our getting a number of larger-than-normal clients, many of whom have told us they are tired of paying “big law firm” prices and like our flat-fee rates,” says co-founder Dan Harris.

Companies are using boutique law firms not just to save money, but also to get better access to experienced lawyers:

Even without the financial crisis, specialist firms say they are able to gain market share by being flexible and building relationships. Companies like specialist boutique law firms because they get much easier access to senior partners, the relationship is far more informal and there’s greater flexibility in discussing various issues. Larger firms feel more institutionalized and corporatized.

I couldn’t have said it better myself…..

International boutique law firms
What do you think?

7 responses to “Boutique International Law Firms Rising”

  1. Like tell me something we didn’t know. Of course, boutique firms are thriving right now in Asia as well as everywhere else. For so many legal matters, they are both cheaper and better and now that this is catching on, the sky is the limit for firms like ours (mine is a boutique real estate firm).

  2. Dan,
    This is certainly a growing trend. The reality is that in more developed legal jurisdictions mid-tier and boutique firms will generally off more value for money. There is little, if any, difference in quality between lawyers in mid-tiers to those in big-tier firms despite what the latter think.
    Asia, and China too, is starting to see the development of the specialist firm (and good quality mid-tiers). To be honest, unless your legal needs are highly sophisticated (big ticket transactions) it makes no real sense to use a big tier.
    I also agree with your comments in the article regarding fixed fees. We provide fixed fees where possible and it is genuinely appreciated by our clients.

  3. Having been gouged rather badly for bread and butter legal advice by the China arm of our global law firm (advice that simply confirmed our Chinese accountancy firms recommendation on HR and service agreements), I agree that boutique law firms with more reasonable rates and a higher level of genuine expertise are a much better option in most circumstances.

  4. Great to hear another boutique’s “view” on this economy and its impact on revenue for a small firm. We are a “boutique-global” firm ourselves (management consulting) and we have been experiencing the same over the last 2 years.

  5. What you say here is so true, but there are those of us who have known it for years and did not need this recession to convince us. I switched to boutique law firms a few years ago after getting a massive bill from a massive law firm on a matter I told them quite clearly was of relatively little importance. I have had enough and that is exactly what is happening elsewhere.

  6. Dan, the reason firms like yours are thriving is because BigLaw has become so bloated and so expensive that they only make sense for gigantic companies on gigantic matters.

  7. Even truer now than when you wrote this. The top big firms will continue to thrive, but those that got big just to get big and to satisfy their own internal desires will continue to falter. Mark my words.

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