About Us

AdvanceLaw was designed by forward-thinking GCs keen to improve the legal market. We provide customized support to each of our GC participants, who view us as an extension of their in-house teams.
 
In sum, we identify strong firms and lawyers for their legal needs, and help them share valuable performance information. The result is greater transparency and better decision-making.
 
For more details, feel free to download our PDF Brochure, contact us at info@advancelaw.com, or read what others are saying below …

 
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Why Law Firm Pedigree May Be a Thing of the Past

Harvard Business Review

 
“Have you ever heard the saying: ‘You never get fired for buying IBM’? Every industry loves to co-opt it; for example, in consulting, you’ll hear: ‘You never get fired for hiring McKinsey.’ In law, it’s often: ‘You never get fired for hiring Cravath’. But one general counsel we spoke with put a twist on the old saying, in a way that reflects the turmoil and change that the legal industry is undergoing. Here’s what he said: ‘I would absolutely fire anyone on my team who hired Cravath.’ While tongue in cheek, and surely subject to exceptions, it reflects the reality that there is a growing body of legal work that simply won’t be sent to the most pedigreed law firms, most typically because general counsel are laser focused on value, namely quality and efficiency…

What can also seem non-intuitive is that only 11% of GCs surveyed felt that [white shoe] firms, despite the price premium, actually were more responsive (a key element of client service). However, this actually mirrors Firoz’s experience at AdvanceLaw, where firms of varying sizes and pedigree are successfully unseating AmLaw 20 and Magic Circle incumbents on high stakes work (e.g., a recent M&A deal valued at $500 million; national trial counsel for a significant multi-state class action). These firms have been receiving impressive evaluations from GCs and in-house counsel on responsiveness, expertise, quality and efficiency. One reason for this is that top talent is increasingly dispersed, not residing solely at the most pedigreed of firms.”

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Disruption in the Professional Services Industry – Video

CEO Panel Discussion

 
On a panel with Tom Gardner (CEO of The Motley Fool) and Derek van Bever (Professor at Harvard Business School), AdvanceLaw’s CEO, Firoz Dattu, answers the question of what makes disruption in the legal industry particularly difficult. Jody Miller, CEO of Business Talent Group, moderates this lively discussion. The below link to a two-minute video clip sets up the premise (and the full discussion is available online).

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Advancing the Legal Profession

Lumen Legal

 
“AdvanceLaw identifies high-performing firms and lawyers for the general counsel of over a hundred large organizations, including Panasonic, MasterCard, Clorox, eBay, Nike, Unilever, and Google. Launched in 2010, the idea developed because Dattu saw that in-house counsel were reluctant to take risks associated with moving work away from incumbents, even when the incumbents didn’t live up to expectations. Finding new counsel is both difficult and time-consuming … ‘Historically, when switching costs are high, complacency tends to set in and markets don’t perform as well,’ Dattu says. ‘We wanted to find an easier and more reliable way for in-house counsel to identify top lawyers.’ The selection process is rigorous. To work with AdvanceLaw, a firm ‘needs to be deeply – not just superficially – committed to stellar client service.’ Performance transparency [means] in-house clients are confident that they’ll be able to ‘migrate from just pretty good lawyers to great lawyers.’ Dattu says this is at the heart of AdvanceLaw’s mission: ‘The GCs who work with us are fired up… [as are] the law firms. Historically, a lawyer doing a great job for a client doesn’t have a ready mechanism to earn more work from several other clients.’”

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Consulting on the Cusp of Disruption

Harvard Business Review

 
“AdvanceLaw and other emerging businesses are helping general counsel move beyond cost and brand as proxies for quality through what Firoz Dattu, AdvanceLaw’s founder, calls the ‘Yelpification of law.’ His business vets firms and independent practitioners for quality, efficiency, and client service and shares performance information with its membership of 90 general counsel from major global companies, including Google, Panasonic, Nike, and eBay. ‘The legal market has historically lacked transparency, making it difficult for us to deviate from using incumbent, brand-name law firms,” says Bob Marin, the general counsel of Panasonic North America. ‘Things are changing now. This has greatly helped general counsel be much savvier about where to send different types of work and helped us serve our corporations better.’

If our long study of disruption has led us to any universal conclusion, it is that every industry will eventually face it. The leaders of the legal services industry would once have held that the franchise of the top firms was virtually unassailable, enshrined in practice and tradition – and, in many countries, in law. And yet disruption of these firms is undeniably under way. In a recent survey by AdvanceLaw, 72% of general counsel said that they will be migrating a larger percentage of work away from white-shoe firms.”

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Survey of Chief Legal Officers

Wall Street Journal

 
“In the past, general counsel would often hire well-known law firms as a sort of insurance policy to reassure nervous boards and investors, particularly during big transactions. [However] clients are increasingly willing to hire [non white-shoe firms], according to a recent survey of top legal officers at 88 big companies by AdvanceLaw, a company that helps general counsel at Panasonic, Google Inc. and other companies vet law firms and attorneys. Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said they would be less likely to use a ‘pedigreed’ firm for high-stakes matters if they could [reduce] the bill by hiring a good lawyer from [another] firm. Cost isn’t the only part of the equation. Nearly 60% of the general counsel polled by AdvanceLaw said lawyers at [white shoe] firms were less attentive to their concerns than those at other firms.”

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The Business of Serving Clients

Dykema

 
Excerpts from Q&A Between Peter Kellett and Firoz Dattu: “Responsiveness is used by general counsel as a proxy for overall client service. If a general counsel isn’t experiencing stellar responsiveness, he or she assumes that the other aspects of client service that are less tangible or visible to them aren’t happening either … I’ve witnessed firms not receiving large matters that were ‘theirs to lose’ simply because the lawyers were not responsive enough in preliminary conversations, prior to the client signing the engagement letter. Regarding sensitivity to cost, it’s not about being the lowest-cost provider. It’s about signaling to the general counsel, credibly, that the lawyer and the firm will do everything they can to reduce inefficiency. General counsel appreciate that costs will be high at times and that not all is controllable.”

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Measuring the Value of Law Firm Pedigree

The Legal Whiteboard

 
“AdvanceLaw is a company that vets law firms and lawyers on behalf of legal departments. Some of AdvanceLaw’s clients include Google, Nike, Sherwin-Williams, Lenovo, Towers Watson, MasterCard, Panasonic, eBay, Deutsche Bank, McDonald’s, Molson Coors, Nestle, Heinz, Clorox, Unilever, CSC, Starwood Hotels, etc. AdvanceLaw is a good example of what Richard Susskind calls a ‘closed legal community.’ AdvanceLaw was formed a few years ago by Firoz Dattu, a Harvard-trained lawyer who spent time in BigLaw (Paul Weiss). To get into the AdvanceLaw network, prospective law firms are run through a rigorous RFP process that evaluates things like expertise, innovation, quality … and track record on diversity. If a firm makes the AdvanceLaw cut, they start getting assignments from participating legal departments. But here is the enormous differentiator. Feedback is collected by AdvanceLaw and shared with the law firm and AdvanceLaw legal departments. So let’s boil down AdvanceLaw’s business model into its simplest terms: It gathers information so that legal departments don’t pay excessive prices for the CYA benefits of hiring high-prestige firms. CYA still matters, of course. But through AdvanceLaw, pedigree is being given a more accurate valuation. Susskind is right. Closed legal communities are going to be major disruptors in the legal marketplace.”

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25-Plus Predictions for the Legal Industry in 2015

Lexis-Nexis Business of Law Blog

 
Prediction from Firoz Dattu: “General counsel will increasingly combine insights from their billing data (e.g., hourly rates, adherence to budgets) with outside counsel performance scores (on things like quality, responsiveness, expertise, efficiency) to identify the best lawyers and firms for their work – this will help in-house lawyers replace not just poor performers, but even “average” performers with much stronger ones, thereby increasing legal market competition. Related, general counsel reliance on law firm pedigree will continue to decline.”

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Harvard, Da Vinci and Law Firm Pedigrees

Forbes

 
“Some of the authors’ most enticing data … surrounds AdvanceLaw’s clients that actually moved [legal work]. Regarding this, the authors say, ‘…firms of varying sizes and pedigree are successfully unseating AmLaw 20 and Magic Circle incumbents on high stakes work (e.g., a recent M&A deal valued at $500 million; national trial counsel for a significant multi-state class action).’ To the authors’ credit, aside from being brilliant – see their bios – AdvanceLaw seems to have a unique view into corporate America’s legal departments. I believe they may have much more to offer us, if they would open the coffers a bit more. But for the moment, while the survey has some interesting data, I’m not dancing on any graves, yet.”

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Advancing Change: How Zagat is Impacting Legal Services

Lumen Legal

 
Excerpt from article: “Imagine if most general counsel had tried to make law firms compete on the basis of value fifteen years before the recession. ‘This would not have been received as well as it is in this marketplace,’ says Firoz Dattu, founder and CEO of AdvanceLaw. In this economy, the most sophisticated GCs are focusing on law firm efficiency, rather than concentrating on larger discounts, thereby giving law firms a ‘major business incentive to change their processes and truly be efficient,’ Dattu says. He cites ways in which the strategy for purchasing legal services has shifted: ‘General counsel are more willing to make their primary firms compete and to bring new firms – and not necessarily the AmLaw 20 or the Magic Circle – into the mix. Notably, they’re looking for evaluation or performance data about external providers to make more informed choices.’ That’s where AdvanceLaw comes in: ‘AdvanceLaw fixes what economists would see as an information gap,’ says Douglas Hagerman, GC for Rockwell Automation, ‘GCs lack good information about the value that different law firms bring to the table.'”

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Can Lawyers Stay in the Driver’s Seat?

University of Chicago Press

 
“Most in-house counsel spend very little of their time managing law firms, yet they know that this is a very important task that too often gets ignored. As the legal market wakes up, gaps are starting to be filled by entrepreneurs. On the matter of helping corporate counsel to find and manage law firms, a recent example is a company called AdvanceLaw. AdvanceLaw helps companies that already have large legal departments to find and retain lawyers in mid-tier cities (e.g., Minneapolis or Sacramento) who can do the work of a Chicago or Los Angeles law firm more efficiently. What’s remarkable is that this service is needed at all. Does the general counsel of a Fortune 500 company really need help finding counsel in Minneapolis just so she can do the obvious thing and send her securities work there at half the cost of a Chicago firm? Because of high search costs, the difficulty and cost of oversight, and frankly the fact that in-house counsel are spread thinly across dozens of different activities, the answer is yes. This is an important observation, because it runs contrary to the general assumption in the legal market that clients will select and manage their own law firms – as though that were a fairly simple task.”

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General Counsel Increasingly Dumping The Top Biglaw Firms

Above the Law

 
“Historically, the elite Biglaw firms derived safety and security from the knowledge that they could depend on big fees from large institutional clients. After all, where would the big dogs feel confident sending their legal work if not to a giant, white-shoe firm, with a complete support staff and the cream of the law school graduating crop? It encouraged behemoth firms and no small amount of complacency. A new study confirms that there’s even more bad news for the top Biglaw firms: GCs simply don’t want them any more. That’s what a new survey by AdvanceLaw cited in the Harvard Business Review suggests. After talking to the general counsel of 88 teeny-tiny companies like Lenovo, Vanguard, Shell, Google, NIKE, Walgreens, Dell, eBay, RBC, Panasonic, Nestle, Progressive, Starwood, Intel, and Deutsche Bank, the survey found that 74 percent of GCs would be much more likely to choose a less-pedigreed firm for high-stakes litigation over a more-pedigreed firm (defined as Am Law 20 or Magic Circle) if the difference in cost was 30 percent or more. And the exodus [from white shoe firms] described by the survey is traceable in law firm revenues.”

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Legal Visionaries: How to Make Their Innovations Work For You

David Galbenski and David Barringer

 
Excerpt from interview with Firoz Dattu: “General Counsel know that talent is not just at the AmLaw 20 or the Magic Circle firms, but they don’t know which partners to trust if they were to migrate work away from the incumbent or pedigreed firms. It’s a scary thing for an in-house lawyer to move work to a new firm with which they don’t have experience. AdvanceLaw identifies law firms in the US and around the world that understand that quality and efficiency are not mutually exclusive. Everyone at AdvanceLaw is passionate about making the legal market more efficient for GCs and rewarding the good lawyers out there who impress their clients.” [Full publication available at Amazon.]

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Profile of WikiMedia’s In-House Legal Function

Corporate Counsel

 
“During his seven years at eBay, Geoff Brigham developed relationships with outside counsel who are well-versed in legal issues facing Web-based organizations, many of whom now work with Wikimedia. And he taps into AdvanceLaw, a coalition that connects GCs with vetted attorneys who do quality work…”

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To contact us, feel free to email info@advancelaw.com.