Why Pearson Hardman is the worst law firm ever? (3) | Study Day One

Why Pearson Hardman is the worst law firm ever? (3) | Study Day One

…And what you should do not to transform your law firm into a soap opera.

This is the 3rd post related to this theme. It focuses on law firms positioning. Post 1 was about Human capital, post 2 was about Knowledge management.



Except from its technical genius, no efforts are made to differentiate the firm from its competitors.

What is Pearson Specter doing? No one knows. What are people within the firm doing? Harvey: closing deals. Jessica: shining in court, in client meetings, in partner meetings… Luis: mastering corporate and commercial issues. The rest of the partners: who knows? So what is the firm doing? Nobody knows, except that they do law, and they try to distinguish themselves by being good at it.

What are real firms doing? The following quotes are from real big law firms websites and their objective is to differentiate the firm.

  • From a global platform of offices in the world’s major financial, business and regulatory centers the firm’s lawyers help clients succeed.
  • [Our law firm] defined the global law firm in the 20th century. And we are redefining it to meet the challenges of the global economy in the 21st.
  • [Our law firm] is a global law firm with lawyers in the Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Positioning us to help companies with their legal needs around the world.

Actually, I am not sure how many clients and non-clients could find their law firm with nothing to help but these quotes. Moreover, I am not sure that one of these quotes has ever helped a General Counsel to pick-up his phone and to change his counsel.

Today, with ever shrinking budgets, a clear differentiation is no longer an option, it is a must. However, to find true differentiating factors you need a well-defined positioning. At Pearson Specter or in general for major law firms, because of a generalist approach this is no easy task. The positioning must be designed in order to answer the question: Why should a client hire my law firm instead of another?

And then …

Answering this by saying “we are used to manage deals and we do it internationally” is not a real differentiator that helps valuing your law firm. A venture capital manager defined what a clear positioning is by referring to the opposite positioning. If the opposite of your positioning can be followed, then you are occupying a real space on the market. One examples of this on the mass market could be the pricing strategy of American Airlines in 1985.

To compete with what was a luxury product: travelling by plane, American Airlines launched the Ultimate Super Saver fares. It was a move from luxury to low-cost. It paved the way to what would be known as Low-cost. Saying that everything that is a service has a price and that you have to be able to opt-in or out on each of them, is the reversal of the assumption that a plane ticket is all-inclusive of full options.

This of course, is only a beginning and you will have to adapt this concept to the specificities of your law firm, but it gives you an idea of how to start finding your unique positioning.

Saying that “from individuals and small local businesses to the world’s largest companies, we support all of your immigration needs, all over the world,” is a clearly differentiated positioning. It seems to work as this precise law firm is around 70th in the AM Law100 ranking.

But also…

In another case, stating that “[in our law firm], we are leading the way to deliver legal services more effectively, more efficiently, more transparently” seems to be quite a differentiator. And because the sentence is followed by facts, reports have shown that “over the past four years, the firm’s revenues have grown more than 20 percent, and profits are up more than 25 percent[1].

Because of a weak positioning Pearson Specter cannot be differentiated from its competitors and fees are not as big as they could have been. A strong positioning helps you demonstrate your value. Because you clearly indicate to your client what your core value is, you are then able to charge him at the right price. And because you expressly stress on what you aim to be good at, your client focus on the value you bring him and not on the price of your services.

It also gives you a better visibility: with a strong positioning, you can be identified as very strong on one precise point. This doesn’t lead you to abandon every other possibility, but focusing your communication on one main asset is the best way for all your stakeholders (clients, influencers) to talk about you in explicit terms. And more than that, it would allow us to answer our key question: what is Pearson Specter doing?


Martin Fauvel






[1] A new order for law, McKinsey, August 2015

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