Yes, Virginia, there is a future for law firms, but it is a strikingly different one from the law firm of the past.
Not Your Grandfather’s Firm
What would have been bombshells ten years ago, and maybe even five years ago, continue to drop from the legal firmament: Double digit reductions in revenues and profits; big shops–Bingham McCutchen, Howrey, Orrick, DLA Piper, Morgan Lewis–shelve or reduce their reliance on lock-step promotions; many firms cut back or eliminate summer programs; salaries are frozen or reduced; behavioral interviewing becomes the newest buzzword in recruitment at Vinson & Elkins and elsewhere; old-line English firms Slaughters, Linklaters and Clifford Chance all acknowledge engaging outsourcers for their clients’ low-level legal work, in some cases after years of deriding the practice; and English firms Addleshaws and Linklaters take steps to convert to all equity partnerships, while a number of American firms secretly consider it.
What the New Law Firm Looks Like
Muir’s article What the New Law Firm Looks Like: the Necessary Reinvention of a Reluctant Industry reviews some of the areas where changes are sure to appear, and are often already in motion: the rise of merit compensation, multisourcing, non-lawyer stakeholders and the demands made on leadership generally and practice group management specifically; the decline of mergers, hourly billings, big real estate holdings, compensation generally, and fixed levels of staffing.
In other words, transition is the keyword. Your competitors are leaving no stone unturned in their search for an edge in a difficult market–neither should you.
Let us know what steps your firm or your outside counsel are taking to better position themselves for the road ahead. We will compile these results and pass on the best to you.