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Case Study #5  

Well Positioned for Expansion – Or Contraction?

1. Candid Input on Why the Firm Was Being “Marginalized” — The interviewees from the Firm’s key client attested to the decrease in the amount of work sent to the Firm in recent years.  Some of this work has gone to other firms with partners who seem more expert or responsive or are actively marketing the client.  Also, as partners and associates have left the Firm, a significant amount of work has followed them.  Additionally, it was estimated, almost a million dollars of the Firm's potential work is awarded annually to other law firms as a quid pro quo for business deal referrals. 

2. The Need for a Dual Image — The Lead Partner’s prior work is highly regarded and the Firm is positioned as one of two firms the client would use in future major corporate transactions.  However, the Firm is viewed as appropriate only where lawyers with a style characterized by “civility” would best fit the involved parties, whereas if it is determined that a “street fighter” is needed, another firm would be chosen.

3. Overcoming the Competition — For major transactions, the client looks to one of three firms, all of which it considers to be excellent and, therefore, “in competition with each other.”  If any one of the firms “slips,” the client shifts work to the remaining firms. The client’s key economic decision maker discussed how “slipping” can occur:  “professionally, such as by screwing up a deal or making a deal cost too much” or “personally, such as by assigning inexperienced or incompatible team members.”  Client personnel interviewed identified six ways in which the Firm could increase its chances of winning work away from the other two firms.

4. Sometimes the “Differentiating Factor” Is Not Enough — Generally, the interviewees acknowledged and were impressed with the Firm’s considerable technical competence, which provided the Firm with an edge over the competition.  But a note of caution was raised that this advantage should not lead to complacency.  The interviewees made it very clear that, for any prospective engagements, only the “A” team would do.  There were also comments implying that the Firm’s role on future assignments would be more effective if the lead Partners were more forceful and assertive.


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