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At $1,500/hour, does the BigLaw cost proposition have value?

April 27, 2016

This is an interesting insight on top end rates in BigLaw by Mark Cohen.  I still hear some buyers of legal services say that they will go to BigLaw for the “brand name” or “specialist advice” however, even these buyers are starting to realize that the legal market is shifting dramatically, and are considering how to factor in alternative solutions at both the junior and senior end when it comes to legal services delivery.

Within the NewLaw market, you can instruct senior partner level or General Counsel equivalents, many of whom have an extensive background in BigLaw, for $1,500 a day – yes, per day, not per hour.   As this market grows, the BigLaw model and hourly rates will become harder to justify.  From the client’s side instructing BigLaw is becoming incredibly expensive, especially if it is mainly the brand you are paying for and from lawyer’s side, keeping lawyers in BigLaw is becoming harder, as more (and especially the millennials) are looking to burst out of the hierarchy and operating model of BigLaw.

So the two common phrases – “you get what you pay for” and “no one gets fired from hiring IBM” might sound like the safe bet, but in this market, buyers of legal services have a range of choices that will deliver value and security, yes – even within NewLaw

Two common phrases at opposite ends of the cost/value spectrum come to mind. “You get what you pay for” implies attractive pricing can lead to poor value. “No one gets fired for hiring IBM” provides the rationale for paying top end price for gilt-edged brands- regardless of value (or, more precisely, that part of the value is the job security that comes from “going with the best” regardless of outcome). Let’s apply these phrases to legal buying decisions that are now commonly made on a value rather than relationship basis.

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