Loved an article in this month’s Asia Law Business, entitled, “Boutique firms gain market from general practices.” The article is written by Rashida Yosufzai and I have multiple reasons for loving it. First, the headline alone is music to my ears as my firm is, as far as I know, the only United States law firm that bills itself as an international law boutique. The article then reaffirms what I thought this recession would do, which is cause companies to move their Asia legal work to boutique law firms to decrease costs and improve services:
Once viewed as the underdogs in the world of the big law firms, specialist and independent firms are benefiting from the post-financial-crisis era of tightened legal budgets. Since the economic downturn, these firms have gained major clients who are moving from bigger firms in the search for lower fees and tailored legal services. “There’s been a migration from companies that used to rest their work in larger, more general practices moving to seek the value they can derive from specialised practices,” says Farah Namazie, the founder of Singapore-based IP & technology firm Namazie & Co. “Ironically for us, during the economic downturn there has been an increase in work.”
In Korea, IP boutique Cho & Partners is also reporting increased workloads from its portfolio of MNCs. “When the economy is bad, many large and sophisticated MNCs start re-thinking their choice of firms they use, and whether they really needed to hire the biggest firms to handle their IP matters,” says Ik Hyun Seo, a partner at Cho & Partners. “They start pushing firms for fee reductions, and search for other options to get the same level of service, without paying the highest rates in the country.”
Competitive legal fees and flexibility are the two main weapons in the specialist firms’ arsenal. Even in the US where firms
have been hit hard by the crisis, specialist firms are also benefiting from the legal market ‘shifts.’ Although Harris Bricken
– a US-based international law practice that focuses on Asia – did feel the economic downturn in 2009, it recorded its
busiest-ever January and February this year. “That’s largely due to our getting a number of larger-than-normal clients,
many of whom have told us that they’re tired of paying “big firm” prices and like our flat-fee rates,” says co-founder Dan
Companies are using boutiques not just to save money, but also to get better access to experienced lawyers:
Even without the financial crisis, specialist firms say they are able to gain market share by being flexible and building relationships. That has been the experience of Singapore shipping firm Navin & Co. “Clients tell us fairly often that in
specialist boutique law firms like ours they have much easier access to senior partners; the relationship is far more informal
and there’s greater flexibility in discussing various issues,” says managing partner Navinder Singh. “Whereas larger firms
they feel are institutionalised and corporatised, and that may distance certain clients.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself…..
What do you think?