Some Solos Find They Need Big-Firm Life

, The Legal Intelligencer

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"They see an opportunity there for probably more overall economic protection in a larger firm, where if a particular practice area cycles in a given year, they're not subject to that particular cycle. They get the benefits of a more diversified practice," Babst said.

Kurman added that many small firm and solo practitioners find they're losing money on work they're forced to refer out that they would otherwise see a cut of if they were in a larger firm setting.

For example, Kurman said, a solo lawyer who has to refer out a $250,000 matter because it doesn't fall within his practice expertise and never sees a dime of that money would be able to keep a percentage of that revenue at a firm like Offit Kurman, whose compensation system places an emphasis on origination.

That ability to cross-sell and be rewarded for it is an attractive proposition for many attorneys, Kurman said.

"It's happened historically," Kurman said. Solo and small-firm "lawyers come here and their total annual compensation increases."

The ability to cross-sell rather than refer out work was a major reason why, after decades of practicing together at their four-lawyer medical professional liability boutique Galli and Reilly, Richard Galli and Mary Ellen Reilly decided to merge their firm into Philadelphia-based Post & Schell at the beginning of last year.

Galli said their clients had needs in a number of areas ancillary to professional liability and, while the firm would occasionally handle those matters, it became difficult as health care law "mushroomed" into a more complex practice over the years.

The firm found itself having to refer out much of the work that didn't fit squarely within medical professional liability.

Now, Galli said, he and Reilly are able to keep much of that work within Post & Schell.

But despite the benefits larger firms offer for some small and solo practices, there can be a stigma attached to making such a move.
Peter R. Spirgel, managing shareholder and chief operating officer of Flaster Greenberg in Cherry Hill, N.J., said his firm rarely receives inquiries from small firms and solo lawyers, which he suspects is due in part to fears of losing independence, encountering rate pressure or realizing their clients are incompatible.

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