How to Choose the Right Law Firm for Your Small Business

Copyright (c) 2008 Law Offices of Jonathan Cooper

Unlike large corporations, who have in-house counsel, a small business is confronted by difficult choices when faced with the need for legal counsel – which firm do you hire? Do you look for a big firm or a small firm? In order to assist the small business owner in making these decisions, I have compiled the following list which clarifies some of the advantages and disadvantages of the big and small firms.

Big Firms:

In general, there are four (4) reasons why you may want to hire a big law firm to represent your small business:

(1) Resources.

You need sufficient support staff to manage an antitrust matter, a complex merger and acquisition, or a litigation matter with documentary discovery that would fill a large conference room or two.

(2) Interdisciplinary Expertise.

You require the in-depth knowledge of counsel on a broad range of legal services to collaborate on matters requiring expertise spanning several disciplines, such as corporate and securities, mergers and acquisitions, securitization, intellectual property, funds and other pooled investments, bankruptcy and corporate reorganization, bank and commercial lending, public finance, real estate, tax and employee benefits, as well as trusts and estates.

(3) Global Presence.

You need a global network of law offices to provide integrated multi-jurisdictional and cross-jurisdictional legal services.

(4) Big Firm Stature.

You need the prestige of a big firm’s name on an opinion letter to support the actions your company intends to take.

Small Firms:

Conversely, if your needs do not fit into one of these categories, your money would probably be better-spent on a small law firm specializing in your business’s needs. The reasons for specifically choosing a small law firm are several:

(1) Client Satisfaction is Critical to a Small Firm’s Survival.

Since, by definition, small law firms lack the “big name” distinction of a large law firm, the distinguishing characteristic for any small firm is its reputation for excellence in its particular areas of practice, and the personal attention the firm offers each client. Since each attorney’s performance is judged on client satisfaction and results obtained rather than on the attorneys’ annual billable hours that are charged to the firm’s clients (including you), the small firms have a vested interest in assuring that the resolution of your litigation or other assignment is as expeditious and inexpensive as possible.

(2) Seeing the “Big Picture”

The day-to-day handling of your case is carried out by the partner in charge of the case, and therefore will always remain mindful and positioned to recognize the most cost-effective manner to achieve your goals.

(3) No Duplication of Work Effort

You should never be billed for meetings between the partners and associates on your case, will rarely, if ever, be billed for more than one attorney appearing at a Court conference or deposition. Why should you pay to assure that the “head” knows what each “hand” is doing, or pay for two or more attorneys appearing when often only one of the attorneys will be allowed to speak on your behalf?

(4) Learning on your Nickel

Since your case is being handled directly by the partner in charge, you will only pay your lawyer to complete the requested task; you will not incur the additional time and expense for educating a new attorney.

In sum, selecting the right law firm is not always simple; one size does not fit all. The key is to choose wisely based upon the factors that are set forth above. It will save you a lot of time and aggravation (and probably money) in both the short and long term.

Jonathan Cooper represents small businesses in breach of contract and fiduciary duty and trade secret theft matters, with a primary focus in Queens and Long Island, New York. For more information about his firm, please visit

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