The End Of Legal Practice As We Know It
Since the start of the GFC, we’ve been hearing that the legal industry is changing irreversibly, with endless examples ‘proving’ that, from now on, law firms need to increase productivity to survive.
Is it true? I’ve got no idea. But that doesn’t stop me marvelling at the stories I’ve been reading. Below is a summary of recent stuff.
Walls coming down on offices (26 March)
An article in the Australian Financial Review (subscription required) notes that Mallesons Stephen Jacques – oft cited as Australia’s premiere law firm – has started embracing open plan offices; a move which is still rare amongst law firms, both in Australia and overseas.
The article goes on to say that consultancy, Hildebrandt, is predicting big changes as a result of cost pressures:
“Typical law firms have more than twice the square feet per person as a typical US corporation… Changing longheld assumptions about space needs has the potential to cut occupancy costs in half and some firms are starting to seriously consider this step.”
Mallesons Moves to Fixed-Fee Arrangement (25 March)
Given Telstra’s much publicised fixed-fee arrangement with Gilbert+Tobin, it was interesting to read on Australian legal gossip site, Firm Spy, that Mallesons has agreed to a fixed price
“for legal services to Telstra for the remainder of the financial year. Subject to involvement in a major transaction not contemplated by the agreement, Telstra will be able to use as much, or as little, of Mallesons services for a set fee under the arrangement.”
As little as 12 months ago, such a move by a top tier firm would have been unthinkable.
Law firms sharpen up as recession cuts legal sector to size (22 March)
Eversheds released its Law firm of the 21st century report (registration required). The report:
“warns law firms that that [sic] they need to modernise or lose out as a major power shift is taking place in favour of the in-house client… and that value and efficiency are now the non-negotiable attributes a client looks for in a legal partner.”
Eversheds is one of the few large firms taking a pro-active approach to changes in the legal industry.
Law Firm Evolution: Brave New World or Business As Usual? (21-23 March)
From 21-23 March, Ron Friedmann live-blogged the conference, Law Firm Evolution: Brave New World or Business As Usual?
Some sound bites from Ron’s detailed posts:
- Firms will have to embrace rather than shun commodification curve.
- Conditions today are favorable for innovation.
- Clients have been improvident in paying large firms so much money.
- ROI maximization requires measuring, managing, and improving (commoditizing).
Other BigLaw Posts
Ron also published a couple of other posts on the subject:
- Recent Takes on the New Normal for BigLaw, which is a roundup of recent blogosphere commentary suggesting “that the economic crisis has caused a lasting change in the legal market”
- Hildebrandt / Citi Report: Tough Times Persist for Big Law summarizing the findings of the 2010 Hildebrandt Client Advisory
All-in-all, a huge month for the end of legal practice as we know it.
So, what do you think? Has the legal world changed forever?
photo credit: tlraum