Monday, June 30, 2008

Chicago legal industry thoughts

An interesting (possible) incongruity I am finding: Half of GCs surveyed are planning to do more work in house and cut back on law firm usage (one big reason -- the cost of hiring BigLaw firms to do less than bet-the-company work).

Yet, notwithstanding this, smaller firms that could perhaps compete on this front are still merging into BigLaw. On the heels of Welsh & Katz (a fine IP firm) announcing its merger with Husch Blackwell Sanders (itself a recent merger!), now we have the first-rate mid-sized Schwartz Cooper dissolving, with almost all of its lawyers moving to Detroit-based Dykema. In turn, Dykema got its start in Chicago in 2004 by merging with Rooks Pitts, also a well-known mid-sized firm.

So, is this economies of scale? A fear that you have to grow to compete? How will clients react? Schwartz Cooper was well-known for its work for LaSalle Bank (now B of A); did that play into it as well? I'm going to have to make a phone call or two.

One last thought: just as we have lost most of our locally run banks, is this now the irreversible trend for law firms, too? I hope some stay around. One that I particularly thought did something interesting recently is Much Shelist (which is well known for having a top real estate team), which announced the creation of a board of outside advisers to help with its strategic direction. I'll have to follow this and see where it takes them.

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