The front page of this week’s Sunday New York Times makes an elegant case for the demise of Big Law. Though the diagnosis has been clear to legal insiders for years, the Times article demonstrates that clients have lost patience with padded billable hours, subsidizing associate learning curves, and paying top dollar for mediocre legal results. Link to NYT Article, Sunday Times, page 1, November 20, 2011
We launched The Forefront Law Group earlier this year as an antidote to this antiquated, broken model. Unlike Big Law, Forefront is dedicated to the needs of the entrepreneurial economy. We have assembled a team of experienced, talented lawyers to serve as counsel to entrepreneurs, growth stage companies, and their investors. With seasoned experts in intellectual property, employment, tax, commercial contracts, real estate, equity structures and financing transactions, we are a very efficient full service law firm. We serve as general counsel for the majority of our clients, partnering closely with them on business and legal strategy.
Forefront itself is a start-up with a unique structure — one that does not rely on a pyramid of leverage built on the backs of green associates. We serve clients with a core group of knowledgeable in-house attorneys supported by a network of legal experts in their respective disciplines. This novel structure allows us to run a very lean and efficient shop, with virtually no overhead and no need to support armies of associates and their learning curves. The way we practice law is shaped by the fact that every one of our founders and lawyers is an entrepreneur at heart (and often in practice). We have a passion for problem-solving and finding ways to help our clients grow their business.
As the Times obituary for Big Law concluded:
“[F]or decades, clients have essentially underwritten the training of new lawyers, paying as much as $300 an hour for the time of associates learning on the job. But the downturn in the economy, and long-running efforts to rethink legal fees, have prompted more and more of those clients to send a simple message to law firms: Teach new hires on your own dime.
‘The fundamental issue is that law schools are producing people who are not capable of being counselors. . . . They are lawyers in the sense that they have law degrees, but they aren’t ready to be a provider of services.’”
Many Big Law firms are making patchwork adjustments to accommodate the new legal realities. At Forefront, we believe the model needs to be created anew. Our partner-level experts work directly with clients to provide seamless, efficient counsel on matters from tactical to strategic – with no layers of churn to pad the bills. Through flexible and creative fee arrangements, we try hard to align our interests with those of our clients. It’s time for lawyers to be as creative and entrepreneurial as our clients . . . on the Forefront of the profession.