Lately I have wrestled with the question of whether large, high-end law firms (“bet-the-farm”) can offer more pedestrian, lower-end services (“Law Factory”). A New York Times article yesterday, Wreckage at the Intersection of Corporate and Consumer Markets, suggests doing so may be very hard. 

Reporter Sam Grobart observes that “The record of powerful companies charging into the consumer marketplace, only to retreat in humiliation later, is long and distinguished.” Prompted by the announcement last week that Cisco is shutting down the Flip video product, he looks at why business-to-business (B2B) technology companies typically fail when they enter the consumer market (B2C)?

After going through a litany of failed attempts, he cites a business professor, writing “it is important for companies to realize what they are good at and what they are not.” Further “Changing a company’s direction midstream — or adding a new direction — is a challenge of the highest order.”

This lesson likely applies to BigLaw. I read this article as supporting my conclusion in “Bet the Farm” Versus “Law Factory”: Which One Works?: “law firms will struggle to manage both bet-the-farm and law factory”. Even if a blue chip firm wants to offer LawFactory services, doing so may well be as hard as it is for a B2B company to become a B2C company.