In what is becoming a noticeable, albeit so far minor trend for law firms in a changed legal landscape – Los Angeles-based Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP has established a new consulting practice. Called Manatt Digital Media, the new initiative will focus on legal and business consulting to the digital media, entertainment and advertising sectors. Interestingly, the firm also plans to make digital media investments from its own venture capital fund.
Peter Csathy, the CEO of Manatt Digital Media, told Variety last week that “he is now “aggressively” looking at funding opportunities in digital media and entertainment companies ranging from content distribution and mobile to advertising and social media. Investments will run [the] gamut from early-stage startups to established companies.”
Continuing a Boggs family tradition
The new initiative is also being led by one of Manatt’s attorneys: Hale Boggs – whose father Tom Boggs helped establish what is arguably the first and still one of the pre-eminent law firm consulting practices: Washington, DC-based Patton Boggs LLP — focused on lobbying on behalf of (initially) foreign sovereign governments — more than 45 years ago.
Aligning commercial objectives of clients with their law firms
A law firm consulting practice is a business model that works exceptionally well as a business development tool for law firms. As George Beaton, professional services sector consultant in Australia has outlined in great detail: “most of these subsidiary businesses are as, or more, profitable than the parents” – yet on the whole law firms have been slow to adopt them – whereas the accounting profession has embraced them with enthusiasm.
What is so attractive about these consulting divisions is that they closely align the services offer of a law firm – with the commercial objectives of clients. I have spent many years selling the services of these hybrid practices (including those of Patton Boggs in Europe) in both domestic and international marketplaces. I can say from experience that any law firm seeking to adopt such a practice should do so – as a matter of first priority.
George Beaton’s analysis – in the real world reality of generating new work for law firms – proves I believe that this hybrid offer is the best means by which to generate that revenue. Indeed, the American Bar Association (ABA) last year brought together a panel of experts to outline the benefits of establishing just such a practice. I expect we’ll continue to see more of these initiatives. As I outlined last month, international law firm Withers LLP recently established a consulting practice focused on private client advisement. So who’ll be next?