The mid tier responds to claims that it shouldn't be too confident in the current climate. Hopgood Ganim Lawyers' managing partner, Bruce Humphrys, writes.
MUCH has been written in the press about the concept of ‘value’ in law firms. Which ‘tier’ of firms provide better value to legal clients is subjective, but there’s no doubt that mid-tier firms do deliver value for the work that is their core business, whether for small to medium sized enterprises or large ASX listed public corporations and multi-nationals. Although the value that mid-tier firms can provide has been highlighted by the global financial crisis, it isn’t anything new.
As managing partner of one of Queensland’s larger mid-tier legal practices, I believe we deliver exceptional value to our clients. But this value isn’t something that has been created by the global financial crisis.
In his article in The New Lawyer on 23 July, Ted Dwyer states that mid-tier law firms are confident at the moment because clients are demanding the same quality of work for reduced prices, which mid-tiers can provide easier than their top-tier competitors.
I’m confident also, but not because I think that the top-tier firms are under threat and that their work will soon be winging its way to my firm. I’m confident because I know that the reputation and relationships we have with our existing clients will see us through, regardless of whether we secure work from large corporations looking for better value.
Ted Dwyer is spot on - there is a misperception that top-tier firms are losing out to their mid-tier counterparts. While I'm the first to admit that I enjoy the odd win over a larger firm in the spirit of healthy competition, mid-tier firms who think the global financial crisis is their ticket to advise Australia's 'big end of town' on major deals and projects are kidding themselves. Those of us who've built relationships with these large clients over the years, and who continue to provide a high quality service to them, will continue to get the work we've always gotten and perhaps a little more, but our top-tier counterparts aren't fools. They are large and successful, and will respond to pricing pressures this time around just as they always have during times of economic uncertainty.
If you haven't built a reputation with the big end of town already, I don't imagine many ASX50 companies will jump ship to your firm for a major transaction just because your charge-out rates are lower than that of a top-tier firm. It will be your reputation, your existing relationships and the size and experience of your team that gets the big deals coming across your desk.
Perhaps what we should be focused on in times like this is strengthening our teams with good people for when that graph bottoms out and the curve starts to kick upwards again. I, for one, am not spending a great deal of time worrying about what my top-tier competitors are up to or how much they’re charging. Instead, I’m working out how I can look after my high performing employees and continue to provide exceptional service and advice to my clients, from the small, emerging private companies all the way through to the large publicly listed clients we represent.