Midsize law firms haven’t managed to completely dodge the recession’s punch, but they have proven more agile than their bigger competitors.

The recession has delivered a savage blow to many law firm giants. Layoffs, employment deferrals and full-blown failures of firms have revealed some deep flaws in the big-law business model.

In many cases, midsize law firms — between 50 and 150 lawyers, for our purposes — have been more adept in addressing clients’ concerns about price constraints, their frustrations with traditional billing structures and their desire to staff matters efficiently.

The National Law Journal‘s inaugural Midsize Hot List represents 20 law firms across the country that have demonstrated creative, innovative strategies to stay competitive. From piles of nominations received, we’ve selected firms that have found new ways to recruit and retain top talent, develop practice areas, manage their operations and position themselves to stay on track during the economic upheaval.

Staff reporter Jeff Jeffrey and regular NLJ contributor Roger Adler put together the 20 thumbnail profiles of each firm. We recognize that many more firms could have made the list. That said, those included here have shown the nimbleness and adaptability that come from lean operations and strong client ties. — Leigh Jones, Associate Editor

THE MIDSIZE HOT LIST
These 20 law firms demonstrate exemplary innovation in practice management, fee arrangements and business development, especially in the face of current economic challenges.

In this economy, the old rules no longer apply
Under pressure to cut legal spending, a good portion of corporate America is dumping high-priced big-city law firms and substituting smaller, lower-cost regional firms.


How do you spell ‘green’? Wendel Rosen
Not only does the firm take extraordinary measures — including the installation of waterless toilets — to conserve and sustain resources at its Oakland, Calif., office, but it also has steadily built a practice that advises clients on doing the same.

Alternative fee arrangements are so 2003
Giving billing options to clients was a founding principal for Cleveland-based Tucker Ellis & West, and that’s still paying off.


NLJ Video: Midsize Hot List
Ronald Shechtman, managing partner of Pryor Cashman, talks about the opportunities and challenges his law firm faces as a midsize operation in New York amid the economic downturn.


FURTHER READING:

THE 2008 APPELLATE HOT LIST
The law firms on this list contributed in meaningful ways to the most important appeals of the year.

THE 2008 PLAINTIFFS’ HOT LIST
The firms that represent the best qualities of the plaintiffs’ bar and demonstrate unusual dedication and creativity.

THE 2007 DEFENSE HOT LIST
Law firms that have done exemplary, cutting-edge defense work.