A neglected area is that of how lawyers find out about other lawyers in their own firms.
As firms have grown larger – we now have firms with 2000, 3000, and 4000 lawyers – and scores of foreign offices, individual lawyers know less and less about their fellow partners in other corners of the firm.
Having worked for and with several large, international law firms over the years, I’m often surprised at how little partners know about some of the other partners in their firms – particularly in the far-flung foreign offices.
In these global and international firms, emails circulate around constantly asking whether anyone knows a lawyer with certain expertise – either within the firm or beyond.
Often the requests are quite specific.
It is likely that a partner would know who to turn to for basic things, but struggle if it involved specialized areas of law, combined with industry sector and/or foreign expertise.
A partner at a Magic Circle firm recently told me that they had a simple sheet of paper with names of lawyers in various countries in the world that they should approach if they had no contact there.
The lawyers on the list weren’t vetted or carefully assembled – it was just a motley section of alumni, friends of the firm, and lawyers with whom someone had once had some dealings.
Other firms have joined international alliances, and they may help sometimes.
Fine to a point.
But the more sophisticated firms lack detailed, good quality internal information about their own lawyers, and affiliated firms and referral partners.
Legal directories exist to help with matchmaking between lawyer to lawyer, or lawyer to client.
While there are plenty of external directories, there are few, if any, good internal law firm directories.
The tool, which is produced by the California-based company, Neudesic, offers a social network-style internal directory for law firms.
According to LawSites, lawyers can search internally for other lawyers by practice area, legal skills, bar admissions, clients, billing rates, publications, work experience, education, and honors.
The product, called Firm Directory, allows endorsements from other lawyers in the firm, and colleagues who have worked with a lawyer and have first-hand knowledge of the lawyer’s skills and abilities.
The law firm also has the ability to designate specific lawyers as experts for a given skill or subject area.
I haven’t used the tool myself, but it strikes me as a good idea and seems to fill a need, particularly for the increasingly large firms that dominate the upper end of the market.