This year's Midsize Hot List shows the agility of law firms with 50 to 150 attorneys in ducking the recession's blows — or at least bouncing back more quickly than many big-firm competitors.
Lower hourly rates remain the greatest advantage that midsize firms offer, but it's not all about the money. The firms included on this year's list have demonstrated the ability to snag big clients by offering specialized services and to hold on to smaller clients through bread-and-butter practices including estate planning and employee benefits.
The National Law Journal's Midsize Hot List includes 20 law firms that have thrived amid the downturn. From among the stacks of nominations we received, we selected firms that experienced a string of successes and that showed innovative ways to run their operations despite the economy.
We've highlighted two firms — Minneapolis-based Bowman and Brooke and Shartsis Friese of San Francisco — to illustrate what it takes to get ahead as a midsize law firm in a market increasingly dominated by large-firm competition.
We recognize that many firms could have made the list. That said, those included here show not only that bigger is not necessarily better, but that midsize is often the right size. — Leigh Jones
THE MIDSIZE HOT LIST
Bigger isn't necessarily better. These firms stand out by proving to be right-sized for the clients they represent.
Playing to the audience gives Bowman its edge
Bowman and Brooke's ability to attract big clients and land big cases is largely due to its tech-savvy attorneys, said Vincent Galvin Jr. All of the firm's lawyers, he stressed, make it a point to understand the engineering and the science behind the products they defend. But the real talent lies in their knack for communicating that knowledge to the jurors.
For Shartsis Friese, strong momentum
For Shartsis Friese, business hasn't slowed down in the two years since the firm secured a $90 million settlement against Princeton University. In fact, 2009 was a "gargantuan" year for the San Francisco firm, said managing partner Art Shartsis.
NLJ VIDEO: SPOTLIGHT ON MIDSIZE FIRM LEADERS
Richard Cohen of Goldberg Segalla
Goldberg Segalla managing partner Richard Cohen speaks about how his firm sets itself apart from other litigation boutiques.
Judith Lockhart of Carter Ledyard & Milburn
Carter Ledyard & Milburn managing partner Judith Lockhrt discusses how to succeed in a market dominated by large firm competitors.
THE 2009 MIDSIZE HOT LIST
The 20 law firms featured in last year's special report on midsize firms.
THE 2010 APPELLATE HOT LIST
The law firms on this list contributed in meaningful ways to the most important appeals of the year.
THE 2009 PLAINTIFFS' HOT LIST
The firms that represent the best qualities of the plaintiffs' bar and demonstrate unusual dedication and creativity.