Eric Turkewitz, New York personal injury lawyer who writes a blog, may not be BigLaw, but he makes a big point: The size of the firm matters less than the attention lawyers give to clients. In his post, “Big Law v. Small Law (Which is Better?)” Turkewitz debates the pros and cons for clients looking for legal representation.
Being a solo practitioner, himself, Turkewitz has 25+ years of experience litigating David v. Goliath size cases. As a result, he recognizes that his value-add is the ability to recall key details about the client, as opposed to treating all matters like just-another-case.
He explains, “What is often missing on the Big Law side is continuity. If the same person handles the file from soup to nuts, then many small details are appreciated. The client is not a file with an injured shoulder, but someone who had a passion for cooking who can’t lift heavy pots and fulfill her dram of opening a catering business.”
“Innumerable details from client meetings and depositions can more easily be retrieved when necessary at trial, because they were learned over the course of a few years, not over the course of a weekend.”
Sometimes cases are thrown at lawyers in a big law firm like they’re purely paper, not personal.
That being said, larger law firms have the resources necessary to put not just one, but multiple talented attorneys on a matter.
Turkewitz admits, “if the firm is small there will be inevitably be scheduling conflicts for which other lawyers are needed. The lawyer you hired may not be able to handle a certain conference or deposition because s/he is engaged elsewhere.”
So who wins the debate? Admittedly, Turkewitz is biased toward small law firms that can provide personal service. This means, no cold or computerized voicemail; rather, human interaction and sympathy with your legal service.
However, from a management perspective, this debate can be win-win. Now that you know the sides of the coin, a BigLaw lawyer can work toward personalizing firm interaction with clients. For example, teach your younger attorneys how to deal with clients—what is expected in demeanor, tone of voice, command of the room—and expand their responsibilities (and, ideally, rewards).
Perhaps it’s time to give your secretaries greater responsibility when communicating with clients. Have your support staff write down personal client notes so that when they call and leave a message (when they’re disappointed that their lawyer is too busy to talk), your secretary or paralegal knows to ask about a sick family member, the kids’ first day back to school, or other information that convinces clients they are more than a wait-list number.
New models for maximizing the efficiency of legal support staff are being developed every day, take The Center for Competitive Management’s audio course on Thursday, May 12, 2016 from 2:00 PM to 3:15 PM Eastern time to learn more (here).
On the flip side, for small law firms or solo practice, it’s possible to be both personalized and also productive. Consider incorporating more technology into your day-to-day activities. Keeping up with the times may allow you to better keep up with your workload.
Some ideas for boosting productivity through tech can be found here.
Furthermore, to keep your cases organized and avoid double-booking court appearances, create a strategy for scheduling and time management. A complete guide for taking control of productivity challenges can be found here.
Big or small, law firms can succeed with management strategies tailored to its needs.