With law firm mergers booming, national and global law firms are becoming the norm. What defines success for the new behemoths? 

For White & Case, Global Expansion Was the Easy Part (New York Law Journal, 1/12/07) describes the challenges one firm faces in creating a truly global firm as opposed to a collection of offices. Some say that even a single office is no more than a collection of solo practitioners.

Measured by profits-per-partner, many large national and international firms are successful. Profits, however, don’t indicate how effective the firms are at cross-selling and cross-staffing among offices. One measure of integration is the percent of hours worked in an office on matters not originated in that office.

The biggest integration challenge is establishing the right culture and incentives. With the “soft side” in place, firms need the right tools to communicate, share, and manage across offices. The supporting technology includes business intelligence reporting, experience location systems, knowledge management resources, and lawyer allocation tools.

You can have all the right tools and still be a series of offices. But you can’t be truly integrated without the right supporting technology.