What the heck is a Mastodon, you ask? I didn’t have a clue myself until I looked it up. It’s an extinct mammal related to the elephant family.

The point relating to legal marketing? Simple. Small firms and solos have hope of seriously competing with larger law firms thanks to the Internet. That is the message conveyed by Mike Dillon, general counsel at Sun Microsystems on his blog, The Legal Thing in a post he calls “The Way of the Mastodon.”

A big thanks to Patrick Lamb at In Search of Perfect Client Service for his great post summarizing Dillon’s main points. Here’s my take:

  • Traditionally (read: in those ancient days prior to the Internet), companies in need of a specialized lawyer would turn to their regular law firm, leaving it to them to find that specialist;
  • Law firms got larger as the law became more complex, and they needed to hire more lawyers to meet those specialized needs (read: increasing costs, and requiring higher and higher hourly rates to pay for these additional “costs”);
  • Along comes the “ole” World Wide Web, and now companies can find really smart, qualified, specialized lawyers in small firms who are just as good and are much more cost effective. How do they know that they are really smart and qualified? Simple, GCs are reading their blogs;
  • Big, expensive law firms will be challenged to stay relevant or go the way of the Mastodon.

As Dillon sums it up: “My point is that the epoch of the current law firm model – which derives its profitability from growing scale and raising hourly rates – will soon be over.”

The new model will definitely increase opportunities for smaller, efficient, niche law firms.