Six years ago, when Ed Giedgowd served as general counsel for a West Coast dot-com startup known as E-loan, he learned that bigger is not necessarily better when it comes to legal representation.

His firm was being represented by 1,100-lawyer Brobeck Phelger & Harrison. But he found that the partner he was dealing with at the San Francisco-based firm seemed more interested in collecting the bill than doing the job.

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