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Being in the middle has never been easy. The middle child, the middle manager, the midsize company—all come saddled with a litany of burdens from not being big enough to do something to being big enough not to do something. The middle is large enough to create expectations, yet not large enough to deploy vast resources in pursuit of a mission. It demands juggling priorities, enduring sacrifices and making sometimes difficult choices. The middle is where we find the Am Law Second Hundred.

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The Am Law Second Hundred serve the same demanding, high-profile clients as their brethren in the Am Law 100. They are being called upon to deliver sophisticated legal advice and employ top-tier talent. And now they are being asked to respond to client calls for increased efficiency, innovation and diversity, all while facing competitive pressures such as an influx of in-house counsel roles and the rise of alternative service providers.

Yet, unlike the Am Law 100, the Second Hundred rarely have access to the same financial resources. They have, by definition, smaller revenue streams and fewer lawyers. Their brands, reliant in most professional service firms on the number of providers, extend only as far as their geographic footprint or perhaps one or two nationally renowned niches. And their resources—the dollars and time available to invest in “discretionary” business pursuits such as project management training, business development coaching or innovative technology—are stretched thin. Further compounding this reality for more than a few are firm leaders doing double duty as practicing lawyers and overly democratic cultures where consensus rules. The struggle is real.

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