The following are some of the highlights from this year’s Futures Conference of the College of Law Practice Management held at Georgetown Law School last week:
New Model Law Firms
New entrants into law firm alternative business models are Clearspire, which consists of 2 joined companies –one providing legal services to clients and the other providing technological and business support to the lawyers, the Potomac Law Group, a Washington DC firm that both provides contract and seconding attorneys, as well as legal advice, and Riverview Law, a UK firm started this year and now with a NYC office, which locates high expenses, such as legal talent, in low-cost markets. They all promise more client-focused value –they bill primarily based on fixed fees which they estimate to be half of the comparable BigLaw bill–while using the same associates that would service clients there, mostly attorneys with 5-8 years of experience at AMLaw 100 firms. And they contend that their systems produce a better work experience for their lawyers, who without control of their schedules might leave the practice of law altogether.
Ward Bower of Altman Weil noted that the Legal Services Act in the UK is making major changes in the legal services business there that he can’t get American firms to pay attention to, but which will inevitably impact firms on this side of the pond. For example, “law firm consolidators” like Quality Solicitors and Co-Operative Legal Services offer non-lawyer owned organizations that consolidate under one brand roof the expertise of hundreds of local and regional lawyers. They also expand legal services to those who might not otherwise be able to afford them by keeping fixed rates low and services highly focused.
For a scary (and recognizable) read about the state of the UK’s law business before these innovations were allowed, read the UK’s Clementi Report.
If, in anticipation of Halloween, you’re looking for further frights, panelists recommended the new book “Avoiding Extinction: Reimagining Legal Services for the 21st Century” by Mitch Kowalski for a look at how differently law firms of the future may operate.
In a rapidly diversifying marketplace with global reach, preferring imitations of white male baby boomers over a diverse group of lawyers who can anticipate and relate to your changing clientele is obviously the wrong approach. Besides, covering up one’s differences is an exhausting undertaking that robs lawyers of their focus and productivity and ultimately fails. Verna Myers of Verna Myers Consulting Group promoted practicing "inclusion" over simple diversity to make sure diversity candidates are not only coming in the door but staying to bring your firm safely through the 21st Century. You want the full advantages of diversity—a cadre of people thinking in different ways about problems that scan widely varying cultures. Your clients will be diverse. Shouldn’t your lawyers be also?
There is more to come from the Futures Conference on what makes "good culture," successful associates and extraordinary managing partners, among other topics.