Monday, March 22, 2010

The Future of Law Firms

Last week, I wrote a re-cap on a panel I attended at the Legal Marketing Association's Annual Conference on Alternative Fee Arrangements.  The panelists said that the law firms that are "pyramid-shaped," with the larger part of their firms being made up by associates, would have difficulty adapting to the make-up needed to accommodate alternative fees.  They said that those firms that are "diamond-shaped," with the majority of the firm being made up of experienced partners would be more successful, implying that firms may be heading in this direction in the future.

However, during Georgetown's Law Firm Evolution Symposium (whose Twitter stream can be followed here), Jeff Haidet of McKenna Long says that "the pyramid will be replaced with the rocketship, associates hired to perpetuate partnership, more efficiency."  Firms will need to redesign entry level assessment and paths to partnership and leverage different resources, not just high-cost lawyers. 

Howrey's Managing Partner, Bob Ruyak said (also at Georgetown's LFES), that firms need to change almost everything about how they do business, including bringing in non-lawyer professionals, lowering costs, and lowering prices.  He said "The risk of uncertainty has to be shared," and that firms have to change how success and productivity are measures, from revenue per partner to productivity of every resource.  But later, Mari Sako of Oxford said that lawyers mistrust of non-lawyers means that partnerships are reluctant to cede control of work decisions to clients.  Professionals distrust non-professionals' competence and ethics.  So what does this mean for the changing law firm and what future law firms will look like?

What do you see the law firm of the future looking like?

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