Home Management Should Firms Focus on “Commodity” Services or Higher Value Work?
Should Firms Focus on “Commodity” Services or Higher Value Work?

Should Firms Focus on “Commodity” Services or Higher Value Work?


Commoditized services or high value work… which should be the primary focus for law firms? Lately, the legal industry’s enthusiastic spectators have been engaging in a vigorous argument over contrasting business strategies of dedication to one or the other. Legal observers, strategists and commentators Ron Friedmann, Jordan Furlong, and Bruce MacEwen have already debated whether law firms should choose between focusing on commodity work or on high-value premium matters, including standardized and systematic work.

One side of the argument insists that premium work is the best bet—it continues to be less price-sensitive with a superior margin and is more acquiescent to hourly billing, whereas it’s possible that focusing solely on commodity work could tarnish a law firm’s hard-earned reputation. That said, the legal industry and law schools are producing far too many lawyers for everyone to be contending for high-premium work; the opposing viewpoint focuses on the idea that the quantity of premium work is limited and only a few law firms can be the key players in this field.

If law firms can focus on undertaking and performing commodity work resourcefully and cost-effectively, there is massive potential for expansion and profit to adequately uphold even the largest firm infrastructures. Certainly, some law firms might jeopardize their future success by making the wrong choice between premium and commodity work, but others may do even worse by failing to choose a direction at all, striving to be of “all category service” while depending on the convention legal service delivery models.

Although lately a number of law firms have diverged from commoditized practices in order to reduce the impact of a heavy income dip, as per the experts, there are reformation steps large firms can take to keep those practices active while cutting down on profit loss. If these firms are able to successfully re-examine and re-engineer their existing business plans, they can begin to flourish by productively delivering both service categories.

Yet another position in this debate maintains that law firm efforts to compete efficiently for commodity work are destined to fail. Big law firm infrastructures are not designed to take advantage of lucid commerce practice and their well-established reimbursement structures. Towering initial wages and motivation for incompetence will keep them from competing with the work quality or price of the non-law firm choices available to customers, including:


  • Legal process outsourcers providing document review with greater quality control and enhanced security measures, which is far less expensive than the traditional outlets.
  • Offshore providers offering legal research and innumerable services at costs that dwarf what high-overhead law firms can offer.
  • Highly automated providers encroaching into the routine services that law firms have long regarded as daily bread, such as drafting basic agreements and preparing deal documents.

This outlook has immense merit as these non-law firm providers can (and will, sooner or later) disrupt a major part of the legal industry’s existing business modus operandi. In this instance, the big law firms shouldn’t need to feel defeated… not if they agree to use knowledge management productively and efficiently.


About the Author

This article was provided by LegalEase Solutions.  LegalEase is a specialized legal research and writing company serving attorneys, law firms and legal departments across the US and beyond since 2004. For more information, please feel free to contact us at 1(877) 712-8003 or email us.

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James Nguyen
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