THE MID TIER should be on a mission to explain to clients and others that there is a life outside the top tier, according to the head of a legal and accounting network.
There is a misplaced feeling that big is best, James Mendelssohn, CEO of MSI Legal and Accounting Network Worldwide told Lawyers Weekly on a trip to Sydney from London.
He referred to the IT industry in the late 1970s and early 1980s when “no purchasing manager ever got fired for buying IBM”. He claimed that CFOs and in-house counsel in mid-market companies are afraid of making bold purchasing decisions.
He argued that the common misconception that big is best leads many users of legal services to be unsatisfied with the legal profession and the service they receive.
“If you are a Ford or an IBM, you probably need a magic circle law firm or a big four accounting firm. The problem is that there are many entrepreneurial businesses that really need good quality, proactive, entrepreneurial legal advice. And they are not very good at buying that sort of advice. They tend to think ‘oh, I had better go and get a big firm’, they pay a lot of money, and they are not an important client.”
According to Mendelssohn, big firms are very good at servicing a certain type of client. There is an ingrained habit, he said, that creates this “buy IBM” mentality, and as a result the clients are the losers. He suggested many do not need a big four accounting firm, not a magic circle-type firm, and would be better serviced by one of the smaller, mid-tier firms to whom they would also be a more important client.
Mid-tier firms need to prove that they provide a viable alternative to the world’s leading legal and accounting firms, Mendelssohn said.
“We have a bit of a mission as a mid-tier network to really explain to people that there is a life outside the magic circle; that there is good quality service available. If we got clients to start recognising that they would be better served by being an important client to a smaller firm,” he said.
According to Mendelssohn, there is a self-perpetuating problem in that students and graduates arrive at mid-tier and smaller firms and find less interesting work to do, because most of it is taken by the top tier.