In the fight for market share, sometimes it’s worth jumping into a smaller pond.

Law firms with roots in major markets are also finding ways to prosper in middle-market locations—places that would be described as the big city within their own regions, but whose population and cost of living don't come close to cities like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Growing in second-tier cities often goes hand-in-hand with targeting midmarket business clients. For some firms, including Cozen O'Connor, Ballard Spahr and Fox Rothschild, that has spurred geographic expansion across the country.

Geography isn't driving the firm's strategy, chairman Mark Stewart said, but the firm is taking advantage of opportunities in those smaller markets. Businesses in those cities are often open to having a broad and collaborative relationship with their law firm, which Ballard Spahr aims to build, he said. And Ballard Spahr's rate structure works in those markets.

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