Biglaw, Dewey & LeBoeuf, Partner Issues

Biglaw Firm Wants Half a Million To Give You Their Two Cents

What do you do when the demand for legal services falls into the gutter? Did you answer: make up a new, unnecessary service to artificially drum up business? Then congratulations, you’re well on your way to making partner!

A Biglaw firm is pitching a “second opinion” service, asking clients to throw a couple of bucks their way to confirm or reject the conclusions of the client’s primary lawyers. Lawyers love being second-guessed, so this practice makes firms and clients alike more than a little nervous.

However, it’s all about how you pitch it, and with the right spin this just might be the best idea anyone’s had to shore up some business in a while….

Alan Salpeter, currently with Kaye Scholer, is the man behind this new strategy. Salpeter is a refugee from the Dewey & LeBoeuf debacle, and prior to that he served as the litigation department chair for Mayer Brown — rendering him a passing character in The New Republic’s indictment of Biglaw, which was really just an indictment of Mayer Brown. David thought the article made Salpeter sound like an old man yelling at the kids to get off his lawn, so inventing a new line of business is not what we’d expected to see from him.

Anyway, Salpeter thinks it’s time to offer “second opinion” services à la medical doctors:

Mr. Salpeter, a former co-chair of Mayer Brown LLP’s litigation department, believes his firm can overcome potential hangups and help would-be clients, relatively cheaply, decide whether to go to trial or settle high-stakes cases or appeal adverse verdicts.

On offer are free one-day consultations and flat-fee engagements ranging from $100,000 to about $500,000, he says. His second selling point is the blended perspective of the three principals: Mr. Salpeter’s decades of trial experience, appellate lawyer Steven Rosenthal’s input from Washington, and a former judge’s viewpoint from James Catterson, who recently joined the firm in New York.

“We all look at litigation through a different lens,” said Mr. Salpeter, 66, who at Mayer Brown defended Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison against insider trading charges and won a $50 million settlement on behalf of litigation consultant Lexecon Inc.

Nixon Peabody offers a similar service, and hey, everyone’s a winner there.

If you think no one would pay half a million to get a rubber stamp, you don’t have the appropriate contempt for your clients. Unfortunately for Salpeter, it looks like clients aren’t buying it.

Some general counsels remain cool to the process. After hiring a top-tier law firm, they are reluctant to second-guess their own judgment and wonder what a contrary second opinion gains them.

“I just don’t see it catching on among highly competitive firms, which is essentially all of them,” said Chicago-based legal industry consultant Joel Henning. “Most law firms and lawyers will be reluctant to get into this game for fear of retaliation.”

That makes sense. Biglaw firms will mostly resent second-guessing, but there is a way to position this service to take advantage of market realities. Instead of casting this business as a second opinion for other, similarly situated firms, Kaye Scholer should sell this as insurance and peace of mind for clients increasingly turning toward lower-profile firms. A reasonably priced second opinion from a Biglaw firm allows general counsel to employ the smaller, less prestigious firm they already hire while still signaling to management that the work product has the blessing of a traditional, established firm. Sure some Biglaw firms will balk at anything that gives clients cover for hiring smaller firms, but it’s time for a reality check: they’re already doing it.

May as well scrape some cash from the situation.

Lawyers’ new practice invites second-guessing [Crain’s Chicago Business]

Earlier: Citi Report Reveals A Mixed Bag For Law Firms
Is Being A Partner The Worst Job In Biglaw?
Nixon Peabody: This Is Not a Love Theme Song
General Counsel Increasingly Dumping The Top Biglaw Firms

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