Tiny law office offers big staff via cloud

Tiny law office offers big staff via cloud

February 26th, 2011 by Ellis Smith in Business Around the Region

Staff Photo by Jenna Walker/Chattanooga Times Free Press Larry Brock holds up a heart model during a video conference concerning an upcoming court case in his office in the Wells Fargo building. Brock is starting up a new branch of Adams and Reese, one of the top law firms in the country.

Staff Photo by Jenna Walker/Chattanooga Times Free Press Larry...

The growth of business has attracted national law firm Adams and Reese to Chattanooga, but not in a traditional sense.

To meet demand, Adams and Reese has opened an office across Broad Street from the Sheraton Read House, but it's an office only in the loosest sense of the word.

It's simply one man in a large room with a desk, a secretary and an Internet connection.

Adams and Reese, ranked as one of the largest 200 law firms in the country, plans to leverage teleconferencing technology and a national network of experts to its advantage, which will keep local head count low, said Chuck Adams, managing partner of the firm.

"Every office is linked by videoconferencing, so we can staff things based on specialty, without regard to where people are," Adams said. "It's a critical part of our business plan."

This trend is increasingly common in the world of law, said Allan Ramsaur, executive director of the Tennessee Bar Association.

"They might have an intellectual property specialist in Memphis who might be called in on a matter that the Chattanooga office had taken in," Ramsaur said. "If they don't have people there on the ground, they're handing it off to somebody else."

Larry Brock, formerly a trial lawyer with another major Chattanooga firm, will head up Adams and Reese's efforts here as the only lawyer in the Chattanooga office.

"Law firms have to position themselves in a way that makes sense in a value-centered world," Brock said.

Instead of opening a "70-lawyer firm," he's relying on the expertise of the firm's existing 290 lawyers spread across the southern U.S., a move that still serves the clients while saving on overhead, he said.

"If you're going to be profitable and successful, you can't re-create the same box in every area," Brock said.

He can call on other partners when he needs a hand with a case in Chattanooga, and they can call on him. In fact, Adams and Reese has already requested his help with several cases.

In his first two weeks with the firm, he worked in Birmingham, Nashville and Memphis, and in the second two weeks he worked with clients in Houston, Jackson and New Orleans, Brock said.

"You couldn't have done that 30 years ago," he said.

The firm had revenues of $120 million in 2010, up from $105 million in 2009, Adams said, which he partially credit's to the firm's talent-sharing technology.

"Our lawyers can work from anywhere, have access to the firm's computers from anywhere they can get Internet access," he said.