What's the Value-Add of a "Full-Service" Law Firm?
Personal Observations from a Lawyer in the Trenches
Over the past decade I have been a solo legal services provider, then managing member of a boutique firm, and then a part of a much larger firm, Whiteford Taylor & Preston, since 2011. So I have really seen the legal profession from all sides—and of course, like all lawyers, I have heard the grumbles from clients about “big law firms.”
So maybe my three-faceted experience in providing legal services will help you gain some perspective as well.
When I first joined WTP, I seemed to be “on an island” (or at least a skinny peninsula), receiving referrals from people in the franchising world, but not from within the firm. No one else at WTP did any franchising work, and at first it seemed as if none of the firm's clients did either. However, three years later, the landscape has changed. I know my new colleagues and they know me, and the connections between us have grown stronger. As a result, I see the value of WTP's attorneys for clients who originally hired me and my value for clients who originally hired other WTP attorneys.
Just in the past eight months, other WTP lawyers have provided the following services to clients who originally hired me:
In addition, senior WTP attorneys have provided me with valuable advice on issues such as the tax consequences of business entity structures and transactions, preparing agreements among owners of a company (such as an LLC Operating Agreement) and with key management employees, and handling disputes between majority and minority owners of companies. All of this insight has helped me provide more sophisticated and creative insights to clients.
On the flip side, on behalf of WTP clients who originally hired other attorneys of the firm, so far during 2014 I have worked on the following projects:
- prepared wholesaler and retailer agreements for a consumer products manufacturer;
- negotiated an exclusive North American distribution agreement with a European manufacturer of construction equipment;
- prepared and negotiated an exclusive U.S. distribution agreement for the sale of a unique product in the precious metals industry;
- advised national trade associations on antitrust law compliance in their dealings with members and outside suppliers;
- advised a provider of online ordering services with the contracts necessary to expand into providing delivery of the ordered products;
- negotiated the terms of terminating a franchise agreement, on behalf of an unhappy and struggling franchisee; and
- prepared exclusive distribution and sales agency agreements for a European company entering the U.S. market.
The attorneys for whose clients I have provided those services have practice focuses in areas such as international trade, taxation, securities, intellectual property litigation, and business litigation.
The Takeaway: if you hire any of the attorneys of WTP, you have our team behind you with a wide variety of experience in working with clients on a wide variety of industries, as well as in virtually every area of the law that impacts business. We serve companies and entrepreneurs doing business between New York and Virginia, with connections to provide additional services as needed throughout the rest of the United States and in foreign countries. That is a long way from the boutique existence at Franchise & Business Law Group!
Maybe this analogy comes more easily to me because of my area of practice, but, looking back at my years as a lawyer, I think it's rather like the difference between opening a corner diner and investing in a franchise restaurant. With a good franchise, you have wind in your sails. The franchisor puts years of experience and investment behind you, in the form of a team of experts, a well-known brand, and savvy choices, so you don't have to research and invent the product from scratch.