It was reported in’s In-House Counsel back in 2007 that small firms were using flat fees to gain an edge in taking corporate clients from larger firms.

That is still the case. As reported in a post on the Desert Law Blog citing the now famous New York Times article quoting Evan Chesler of Cravath, Swaine & Moore denouncing the billable hour, small firms are still ahead of large firms in going to flat fees. In fact, the post points out how difficult it will be for large firms to make the shift to alternative fees in spite of Chesler’s comments.

Now there seems to a new twist. In light of the economic realities of 2009, smaller firms are not only taking clients from larger firms, but their taking BigLaw’s lawyers too. A recent article by Lynne Marek in The National Law Journal that appears on’s Small Firm Business entitled Big-Firm Partners Go Small to Keep and Attract Frugal Clients” points out that over the past four months partners from “DLA Piper, K&L Gates, Katten Muchin Rosenman and Jenner & Block” have made the move to smaller firms. It is not clear whether this movement is due primarily to the frugality of clients, or that the lawyers themselves want to offer clients lower fees and fewer conflicts of interest.  Does it really matter which?

So, my real question to small and medium-sized firms is very simple: what are you waiting for? Crank up that marketing. Let Corporate America know of the talent you already have to handle their matters at lower, alternative fees.