BigLaw looks ahead, shudders

by Vault Law Editors | June 22, 2009

  • My Vault

Will the Future for Law Firms Be a Reset Button Rather than a Panic Button?asks The Legal Intelligencer in the final installment of its series on the lasting effects of the recession on the legal industry. Not sure if they answer the titular question but one thing is clear:  Turn and face the strange ch-ch-changes/ Just gonna have to be a different legal services delivery model.”

Some article highlights:

BigLaw deviancy has been defined down: “[T]he stigma attached to making tough, uniqueand sometimes unfavorabledecisions seems to be fading as firms use the recession as cause to hit the reset button.”

On the bright side, law firms are finally free to be you and me: “[W]e can get to the point where each individual firm focuses on what's best for their law firm as opposed to trying to emulate the star firms … We all have the same set of issues, but we don't all have to have the same answers.”

The death of leverage (or, since everything went pear-shaped, diamonds are the new pyramids):  The current market has thrown the highly-leveraged model out the door…maybe even permanently … Firms are moving from the pyramid model of a few partners at the top and hordes of associates at the bottom to a diamond shape in which several senior associates and junior partners make up the bulk in the middle in an effort to maximize value for the client.

The death of lockstep compensation: “One of the big drivers of lawyer compensation was the need to compete with salaries of other professions, particularly investment banking. Today, salaries in those fields aren't on the rise.”

The death of the billable hour: ‘We're in that horrible middle stage … As to whether or not it's inevitable, yes it is. For those who are saying the talk is because of the economy and that once things go back to normal we'll go back to billing as we used towrong.”

The rise of the smaller firm: “This climate is a great opportunity for the so-called midsized firm to define itself for the long run, not just because it's an economic recession.” See also:  “In future, we are all firms of one”

 A parting thought from FMC Technologies GC Jeffrey Carr:

“I think we're on the cusp of change.  And if firms don't change, they're not going to like what results in the end because there are forces in play that are driving change and you can miss the train, you can get on the train or you can get hit by the train, but the train is moving.”

                                                                                  -posted by brian

Filed Under: Law

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