In an information-based culture and an economy of subject-matter experts, the ordinary law firm is not keeping up. Lawyers in traditional law firms have elected to practice solely with a certain narrow group of attorneys, with whom they share everything from postage costs to profit bonuses. In a variety of ways, this is very limiting and has negative consequences for commercial law clients.
Of course, your primary business attorney should be able to handle most legal issues that arise for you and your company on a routine basis. There are many generalist corporate or "transactional" lawyers that are sufficiently qualified in this respect. The quality and value of service you are receiving from a traditional law firm begins to deteriorate, however, the moment you have a specialized issue that your primary lawyer cannot personally resolve.
That lawyer is going to walk down the hall in his firm to one of his partners or associates (his "Colleague") to ask about your nuanced question. Almost without exception, the Colleague is not the best attorney to ask about your need. In some cases, the result is comparable to going to a cardiologist for an opinion on a knee replacement. The Colleague is a doctor, but not the kind of doctor you need.
As an example, there are more than 40,000 attorneys admitted to the State Bar of Georgia alone, many of them practicing in Atlanta. Logically, why would one think that, out of the masses of attorneys available in the world, the one who has the most knowledge about your urgent specialty issue and the most reasonable fees is the Colleague in the same city, building, and law firm as your primary attorney?
Most conventional law firms have, purely by the nature of their insular organizational structure and antiquated overhead model, severely limited their own talent pool. Their hiring is confined by, among other factors, geography, practice area concentrations, comparative salary range, unmitigated operational expenses, firm culture, and the territorial coveting of client relationships.
Apart from the best-and-brightest issue, the work product of the standard law firm is critically hampered by an unusual degree of economic self-interest. The model for attorney income there (see Pyramid Pay discussion) creates a strong incentive to: