To defend itself in the biggest court ­battle in company history, Volkswagen A.G. has gone small.

Herzfeld & Rubin, Volkswagen’s choice for lead counsel to handle more than 400 class actions filed over the emissions scandal, is a 66-lawyer New York law firm — tiny compared with the bulwarks Toyota Motor Corp. and General Motors Co. hired in litigation over recent safety recalls: Chicago’s Kirkland & Ellis, with 1,576 lawyers, and Atlanta’s Alston & Bird, with 759 lawyers.

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