At the risk of stating the obvious, in this economic climate everyone is, or should be, scrutinizing their bottom line to assure that no dollar is wasted. That rule should certainly hold true with the lawyers you hire to represent your New York-based small business. Thus, while a few years ago you may have been more apt to simply hire the lawyer recommended by your friend down the block, or were simply more comfortable having a large firm’s prestige to back your commercial case, the simple truth is that that your interests will often (and likely) be far better served by investing more effort in carefully selecting an appropriately qualified lawyer or small law firm that best suits your business’s needs.
Simply put, unless it is essential that your small business have legal guidance that integrates numerous disciplines across various points on the globe, such as in a multi-national mergers and acquisitions context, chances are that your business’s bottom line will look much healthier if you hire a small or boutique law firm to handle your civil litigation case. Here’s a partial list of reasons why:
First, smaller law firms have a greater vested interest in assuring that their clients are, and remain, happy with their services, because these small business clients – and any referrals they provide -- are the staple of the firm’s existence; as a result, these firms are typically willing to work out creative billing arrangements that greatly benefit small business owners.
Second, unlike larger firms, where the daily oversight of your case may be delegated to lower or entry-level associates, smaller firms should provide you with a much clearer idea of who will be assigned your case for much, if not all, purposes.
Third, and in a parallel vein, smaller firms will typically not only provide significant cost savings in terms of their hourly billable rate, but will also promote greater efficiency by reducing the number of people working on your case, and assuring that you are only billed for the completion of tasks that are approved by you; you should never be billed for the learning curve of entry-level associates. In my opinion, this latter practice is wrong and unethical: if the law firm wants to train new lawyers, that is all fine and good; but it should not be done at the client’s expense.