Today UK's Legal Week reported that mega-firm CMS Cameron McKenna was transferring its immigration practice to a specialty firm, Fragomen. According to the report: CMS said that following the transfer it will use Fragomen as its preferred UK provider for all immigration legal advice and related services. To me, this is breathtaking, notable and inevitable. It's breathtaking because CMS is honestly saying that some work that we could do, we've decided not to. Most large law firms never say this. When I see one referring work to another firm (absent a conflict), I can hear a thousand GCs falling off their Aeron chairs. It's notable because the last 20 years of growth for most national and international law firms has been in pursuit of the "full service, one-stop shopping" vision. This was fueled by the "DuPont Model," where corporate clients culled the herd and converged on a few firms that could do everything. The promised land of user-friendliness and cost savings was the (allegedly) within reach. Finally, this CMS spin-out was really inevitable. Some work cannot support higher fees and the fatter margins some firms covet. Furthermore, some work (like immigration) may lend itself to more automation and use of non-lawyer legal specialists. There's the added security in knowing that a referral of discrete work to a specialty firm presents less of a chance that the receiving firm will try to leverage into unrelated work from the client. Is this really a sign of the end of the full service law firm? Maybe not. Yet. But it tests the notion of what a law firm really is and pushes the essential question for all managing partners: why be all things to everyone? It also shows that different firms can work together for certain clients and not over-tax the client's wallet and the firm's management of client matters. That's maybe the deepest fiction revealed by this news: that law firms work better and more efficiently internally than with other firms. There is much more to that; it will have to wait for another day. Look down the road for something titled: One-Shop Stopping. Two cheers for CMS, and future Fragomen partner Caron Pope and her team. (Hat tip on this story to @ronfriedmann. This may be some of your #LawFactory with a dose of #LegalReality.) (Below, a security camera captures a high-tech entrepreneur in the lobby of full-service law firm).
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