Washington Lawyer - August 2017 - 20

When the U.S. economy first began to integrate
with the rest of the world, participation in the international market was largely limited to the biggest
and most established corporations. These businesses generally relied on large law firms to meet
their legal needs. Midsize firms were left to handle
medium-sized domestic companies with limited
international needs.
As the pace of globalization increased, more
medium-sized companies began conducting
business around the world. In response to this
growth, many of the largest law firms expanded
their practices to include overseas offices, while
merging with other large firms to form what are
often referred to as megafirms. Today, megafirms
provide legal services to the largest corporations
as well as to medium-sized companies that once
relied on midsize law firms. At the other end of the
spectrum, small boutique firms are often perceived
as better suited to handle the needs of smaller,
local businesses.
Further fueling the discussion are vast political
changes that have led businesses, as well as
law firms, to question many aspects of our everchanging global economy. As law firms of every
size seek to meet these challenges, the survival
of midsize firms may come down to their ability
to stay on top of these issues and provide their
clients with the resources they need for success
in every corner of the globe.

but have clients with global concerns. [The group]
is comprised of a highly functional network of law
firms [that] can reach out to each other." Blumenfeld
says that membership is a valuable asset to midsize
law practices. The World Services Group includes
multiple firms from various countries across the
globe. When a member needs assistance with a
case in another country, it can reach out to another
member firm for guidance, or refer the matter
altogether. "It's a very smart idea," Blumenfeld says.
John Remsen Jr., a business consultant for midsize
law firms, believes that law firm networking groups
help smaller firms stay globally competitive. "I
encourage [midsize firms] to plug into a law firm
network," he says. "Here, you build relationships
with firms across the world so you can refer your
clients with confidence. There are dozens of them
out there, so you have to do your due diligence.
Then, you have to show up and get involved to
build those relationships."
These networking groups offer midsize firms an
opportunity to create a global presence, even when
they do not have the financial resources to scale up
to physical multinational offices.
Remsen believes that midsize firms will survive as
long as they utilize the resources available to them.
"Complacency sets in, but you have to get out there
and hustle every day," he says. "If your clients are
trending toward a global model, it is in your firm's
best interest to follow them into that marketplace.
A well-run midsize practice can prosper within
a globalized economy."
Blumenfeld also refuses to accept the so-called
demise of the midsize firm. "This type of conversation
started rising within the industry about 25 to 30 years
ago," he explains. "Analysts said that the only survivors will be the biggest, 1,000-member law firms and
the smallest - 10-person or less - boutique law
firms, with nothing in the middle. I did not believe it
then and I do not believe it now. At any size, if you
can provide quality service and fulfill the needs of
your client, you are the right size law firm."

Jeffrey Blumenfeld

According to Jeffrey Blumenfeld, a partner at
Lowenstein Sandler LLP and cochair of its antitrust
and trade regulation division, midsize firms are
perfectly situated to capitalize on the numerous
global opportunities. His firm, for instance, has
found effective ways to meet its clients' international practice needs.
"A lot of our clients transact business in many
parts of the world," Blumenfeld explains. "We are
a member firm of the World Services Group, an
association of firms that are not themselves global

* AUGUST 2017 *

"I think firms are adapting, particularly in this
age when lawyers can work from anywhere,"
Blumenfeld adds. "It's a world in which the physical
location of a firm's assets is less important than it
was historically."
John Smock, owner of Smock Law Firm Consultants,
does not think that globalization is the greatest
challenge facing midsize firms. However, he does
recognize that some of these practices have experienced significant losses. "The fact remains that
there are some midsize clients who have been cut
out of doing some work for multinational clients,"
he says. "It boils down to being able to roll with
the punches, and I don't see why a good group
of attorneys in a good midsize firm is any worse
at rolling with the punches than a good group
of attorneys at a big law firm."

John Smock

One key to the survival of the midsize law practice
may lie in the firm's culture. "Within my law firm,
I have relationships with many of the members,"
Blumenfeld explains. "I have friends who have
merged into giant firms, and they say it is quite
obvious that an awful lot of lawyers don't know
each other, even within the same firm. What works
very well for us is we have a collaborative culture.
We work as an integrated team to obtain the best
results for our clients. I really like the freedom of
being able to choose the lawyers I have a lot of
confidence in."

In addition to challenges posed by scale and
resources, midsize firms also must deal with the
same core issues faced by megafirms when operating in an international regulatory environment
that has been rocked by the twin shocks of Brexit in
the European Union and the election of Donald
Trump in the United States.
During his campaign for president, then-candidate
Trump pledged to put "America First" by keeping
foreigners from taking American jobs and ending
or renegotiating trade deals he believed hurt U.S.
workers. While some Trump administration actions
indicate a notable change in trade policy from the
Obama administration, Trump also has appeared to
reverse his prior trade positions, such as his promise
to terminate the North American Free Trade
Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico.
Lawyers with international trade practices and
multinational clients say the change in administration has significantly affected their practices, and
that a great deal of energy is being devoted to
helping clients adapt and respond to the changing
business atmosphere.
"Right now, companies don't know what to expect,"
says Kay Georgi, a partner at Arent Fox LLP and
leader of the firm's international trade practice
group. "There's incredible change and lots of new
work for trade lawyers."
Jeffrey Blumenfeld, courtesy of Jeffrey Blumenfeld; John Smock, courtesy
of John Smock


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