Large Law Firm or Small
Generally speaking, the larger the law firm, the greater the overhead, therefore the higher the hourly rates you will be expected to pay. Still, larger firms have a number of advantages over smaller ones. Over the past 20 years, lawyers have become incredibly specialized. If you use a solo practitioner or small firm as your lawyer(s), it’s likely that they will not have all the skills you may need to grow your business.
I don’t know of any solo practitioner, and very few small firms (under 10 lawyers) that could handle your lawsuits, negotiate your lease of office or retail space, file a patent or trademark, draft a software license agreement, advise you on terminating a disruptive employee, and oversee your corporate annual meeting. Sooner or later, these “generalists” will have to refer you out to specialists, and you will find yourself dealing with two or three (or even more) attorneys.
While larger firms are more expensive to deal with, they have two significant advantages:
- They usually have all the legal skills you need under one roof
- They have a lot of clout in the local, regional and (perhaps) national legal community
A nasty letter from a “powerhouse” law firm with offices in 30 states is a lot more intimidating than a nasty letter from a solo practitioner who is not admitted to practice in the defendant’s state. Also, being connected with a large, well-established law firm may have intangible benefits — they may be willing to introduce you to financing sources or use their name as a reference when seeking partnership arrangements.
Certainly if you run a fast-growing entrepreneurial company that plans to go public (or sell out to a big company) some day, you would need to work with lawyers whose names are recognized in the investment banking and venture capital communities.