BigLaw Transparency: Kalis v. the Am-Flawed 100

Whatever one’s personal opinion of K&L Gates’ Chairman Peter Kalis, few can dispute his marketing genius. A master of the in-your-face quote who relishes the spotlight and misses no opportunity to place himself front and center for the legal market media, he deserves a lion’s share of the credit for taking a once relatively unknown law firm languishing under the radar in a small market town and turning it into one of the world’s greatest in terms of numbers of lawyers and offices as well as gross revenue and brand-name recognition.

Mr. Kalis’ latest act of marketing brilliance: publishing on the K&L Gates website for easy access and perusal a thorough report of his firm’s finances approaching disclosure standards set out by U.S. federal regulators for publicly traded companies — a voluntary offering likely never before even contemplated by his major law firm competitors. Within days of its release, Mr. Kalis’ marketing team was fending off interview requests from media ranging from the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal to The Lawyer and Law360, all asking the same basic question, “Why?”

We humbly submit that the better question would have been, “Why not?” Now a billion dollar business with no debt and a global footprint which spans five continents spread out over 47 offices, what is there really not to like about K&L Gates’ numbers? More significantly though, Mr. Kalis recognized that in an industry tainted with collapse after collapse of ex-rivals — most recently of course the embarrassing case of Dewey & LeBoeuf — there was a gaping niche for financial transparency and reliability simply crying to be filled. Not only had no other major law firm previously offered such accurate, comprehensive and easily accessible financial information, the company most frequently associated with the compilation of comparative law firm financial data — namely the American Lawyer — was quickly becoming a laughing stock around law firm watering holes, its misleading ranking charts accumulating monikers along the lines of “The Faux-Law 100” (credit to Mr. Kalis) and “The Am-Flawed 100” (credit to Hanover Legal).

So in publishing its financials in such a manner, Mr. Kalis and K&L Gates have easily distinguished themselves from every one of their competitors in the ever-increasingly fierce marketplace for clients and talent, while guaranteeing themselves a flood of free positive publicity — a business no-brainer if there ever was one.

Thus, Mr. Kalis, we congratulate you. When the inevitable time comes for you to step down from your firm’s helm, you have your place in the BigLaw Marketing Hall of Fame.

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