September 22, 2021

5 Reasons I Favor Smaller Defense Firms

When I was an undergraduate in college, one of the most popular books at the time was a tome titled, Small is Beautiful by the British economist E. F. Schumacher. While I read the book, I did not jump on the bandwagon, at least not in the realm of economic theory.


However, in one aspect of litigation management, I agree that small is beautiful.

In searching for defense firms that do insurance work, I confess a bias toward small to medium-sized law firms. Often, I have clashed with policyholders who insisted that some name brand, $500 an hour attorney or law firm was the only one who could adequately represent their interests and who could “send a message” to the other side.

Incidentally, I have never had a case where the claimant/plaintiff folded up their tent and slunk away simply because the insurance carrier or defendant named a specific big-name law firm to the defense. To the contrary.  In some cases, it sent the message that “this must be a big deal, or else they would not have gone to the expense of hiring such a white shoe law firm!”

Five factors cement my bias toward small to medium-sized defense firms:

            1.  Flexibility.  I often find them more flexible to deal with in terms of agreeing to insurance carrier litigation guidelines

            2.  Cost effectiveness.  They have less of a cost structure, so they are more cost competitive in terms of hourly rate

            3.  Service orientation.  there are less hidebound by size and bureaucracy, so they often appear to be more service oriented

            4.  Personalization.  Odds of getting more customized and personalized service by being a bigger fish in a smaller pond

            5.  Better vibe.  Less hubris with regard to insurer cost guidelines and litigation/reporting procedures

Some big law firms I have encountered almost wore it as a badge of honor that they did not lower themselves to do “insurance defense work,” as if it was on the wrong side of the tracks in the legal neighborhood.

I also plead guilty to overgeneralization here. There have been big firms with whom I’ve worked that have delivered responsive, effective and customized service and have garnered good results for my policyholders.

I’ve also encountered small to medium firms that turned out to be absolute nincompoops.

Exceptions exist for every general rule.

However, as a default mode, I gravitate toward small to medium-sized firms in stocking any panel of defense counsel in an insurance defense context.

How about you? Does it matter to you whether you hire a large “name brand” law firm or one with less cachet and name recognition? Share your comments here or directly to me at


  1. I used to hire small law firms to do the defense work because it was easier to get to know and deal with the same
    lawyer from beginning to end. The small firms valued your business and provided real service.. Whenever I dealt with the larger defense firms I noticed a constant turnover in lawyers. Then the new lawyer would have to review the file, contact me and the whole process would start all over again.
    I presently do work for small law firms and I notice that if I have a question a problem I get a fast answer from a lawyer at a small law firm

    • Good point, Harold. To me, smaller firms seem hungrier for your business and less hide-bound by “the way WE do things around here.”

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