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Even law firms can use new business models - Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges

An article in Fast Company’s September issue features a Los Angeles law firm that is making big bucks with a business model that is foreign to traditional firms.  For some years, I’ve worked with the strategy groups of law firms, and discovered, as one of my colleagues points out, that the basic business model of the law firm has not changed since the times of Charles Dickens! 

Among the interesting aspects of the firm’s strategy are an unrelenting focus—they just do business litigation.  And, even more interesting, they don’t shy away from jury trials, which most large established firms don’t pursue, preferring settlement as a safer, more comfortable option.  A little arrogant?  Well, maybe.  According to the magazine article, their web site notes that “Justice may be blind, but she sees it our way 90% of the time.”  By sometimes offering contingency-only deals to clients with potential awards, the firm is able to generate outsize profits per partner, the gold standard measure in the law business.

As observers of the law have noted that a decline in the number of jury trials means, among other things, that few public trials to set precedents are available, this company’s approach might provide an interesting counterweight.  An intense, hard-working pace characterizes the company which is about as far away from the ‘billable, safe, hourly’ mindset of your average law firm as I can imagine.  Their success is particularly poignant when even the Wall Street Journal notes that for most young lawyers, times are nothing but tough with law school no longer representing the ticket to success that it once perhaps did. 

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