Attorney growth among the top 50 firms—as measured by Law360 rankings for last year—was larger than any other segments, with the largest U.S. firms now averaging 960 attorneys. Law firm consolidation is responsible for a good portion of the growth, but getting bigger can be fraught with peril in the areas of client conflict and pricing.

“When a firm consolidates, all of a sudden lawyers who are brought into the firm’s rates have gone up significantly,” he said. “It’s not as if they got smarter or more creative or resourceful, it’s that they’re now part of a larger family with more mouths to feed.”

While many corporate law departments seek “one-stop shopping” offered by megafirms, those firms may be challenged to keep the depth of talent that clients demand.

“Megafirms are almost like franchises,” he said. “The level of talent and caliber of representation can drop off dramatically from office to office. I’m certainly not anti-big firm, but sometimes it’s those smaller local firms that have unique relationships with regulators and will be more effective at getting deals through.”

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Thomas L. Sager