Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Law Firms: Change or Die?

As I mentioned yesterday, I've been following along as attendees of Georgetown's Law Firm Evolution Symposium have been tweeting the conference highlights.  Rachel M. Zahorsky of the ABA Journal was in attendance, and wrote a great article that summed up a theme of the conference - BigLaw must change or die.  She quotes several speakers, who make ominous statements:

- Patricia Gillette, Orrick partner: "It is a mistake to think of change in terms of silos...Change must be sweeping. If you do not change, you will die."

- Susan Hackett, Association of Corporate Counsel vice president & general counsel: "The window is open for another year to year and a half for firms before clients start walking and looking at firms they've never looked at before...Whenever a firm says [it] can't hold to a budget number because of unpredictability, the GC still has a busted budget. It's not unpredictable. It's unforgivable that they don't know and unforgivable that we haven't held them to that."

- Robert Ruyak, managing partner and CEO of Howrey: "Partners must be willing to sacrifice some short-term profitability for greater success and profit in the long-term.  That's something many partners don't want to do, but we have to.  There is no choice because some firms will, and they're the ones that will be eating our lunches tomorrow." 

But some are saying that there are firms that think that the legal industry will soon be back to the way it was, and so they don't have to worry about changing. 

Mid-sized law firms, like those in the ILN, often find it easier to adapt than BigLaw because their size makes them more nimble.  But even though this is the case, clients are asking all of their firms to more strongly consider their needs, focus on strengthening their relationships.  As was said at the LMA Conference this year, clients have always had the power, but now they know it.

So what are your firms doing to adapt to the siren call of change?  How are you providing your clients with better service, more value, strengthened relationships?  And how are legal marketers supporting their attorneys to make these changes possible? 

Or, on the flip side, are you one of those who believes that the legal industry will rebound, and so there isn't any need for change?

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