I never understood the appeal of those “reality shows” featuring families with a gaggle of kids. After hearing endless commentary about the Duggar family on my favorite morning shows, I decided to watch and see what all the fuss was about. The Duggars are the family featured on TLC’s 19 Kids & Counting. Each episode features some highly edited story wherein one of the Duggar kids has a problem and wackiness ensues. Watching the episode did nothing to help me understand America’s (or at least Good Morning America’s) love for the Duggar family. It did, however, help me understand why there are certain matters that only a Biglaw firm can handle.
Biglaw associates, like the Duggar kids, are many. And, in my opinion, Biglaw associates are often, like the Duggar kids, interchangeable. I don’t say this to be mean. I say this because when I was in litigation at a Biglaw firm, we were swapped in and out of cases as if we were interchangeable.
So what do small firms do to compete? They don’t have their own Duggar brood from which to throw bodies at problems that arise with large cases or deals. In my interviews with small-firm attorneys and solos, their solution is to join with other small firms. Indeed, if you combine attorneys from enough small firms, you can build a Duggar-like army. Finding the right firm with which to co-counsel, however, may be difficult and time-consuming.
For you small-firm attorneys facing this problem, I have good news, and it does not involve overpopulation….
Klinedinst recently announced the creation of its Co-Counsel services. Klinedinst is a full-service law firm with four locations in California. Klinedinst has various transactional and litigation practice groups, and is composed of about 60 attorneys.
According to the website, the Co-Counsel services offer the following:
Klinedinst Co-Counsel Services provides pre-trial assistance, trial preparation and trial expertise to small firms and solos in significant cases. . . . In such cases, Klinedinst attorneys acting in a co-counsel role can provide considerable trial resources and litigation experience, to solos/small firms, allowing those firms to keep significant cases and maintain relationships with important clients.
Small firms utilizing the Co-Counsel services can work with Klinedinst attorneys as either “second chair” assistance, filling in where needed, or in a “first chair” capacity, where the small firm and Klinedinst participate equally in the matter. While other firms provide co-counsel services on an informal basis, the formalized Co-Counsel program is the first in the nation.
James D. Crosby, Shareholder and Chair of the Co-Counsel Services, explained the rationale behind the Co-Counsel program: “When you’re a small, independent attorney, you want to do what’s right for your client, but you can only go so far before you hit a ‘capacity ceiling.’ Being able to co-counsel with a trusted legal partner allows attorneys to strengthen their relationships with important clients without sacrificing their practice or personal life.”
I think that Klinedinst is on to something here. Sometimes, legal matters require a large number of attorneys. Rather than pass up these matters — where the large needs often means a large amount in legal fees — firms should consider formalizing their co-counsel services. And maybe there is a niche in the co-counsel service arena. You can start the firm that provides Duggar-style backup. If it worked for them, it should work for you.
I welcome your thoughts on co-counseling and whether you want to challenge Klinedinst’s apparent monopoly in this area.
When not writing about small law firms for Above the Law, Valerie Katz (not her real name) works at a small firm in Chicago. You can reach her by email at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ValerieLKatz.