Here are the top ten things I expect to see in 2009:
- The continued explosion of the use of Twitter by attorneys in order to accumulate their feed content from their blogs.
- A faster pace for law firm innovation driven by the economic downturn and hyper-competitiveness of the legal market.
- The first seeds of realization by clients that there are significant differences between firms and their service offerings.
- Large firms breaking up into smaller pieces as practice groups leave their firms to start new firms.
- Continued move toward specialization by attorneys as the words “general practice” start scaring away clients who realize their problems are anything but general.
- A continued and misguided trend by law firms using technology to reduce staff and thus force more administrative functions on their attorneys (all to the client’s detriment).
- Use of web-based client management and extranet systems by law firms in order to provide further real time and encrypted information to their clients and incorporate virtual workers into their business models.
- A continued increase in the number of lawyer blogs, who find they have more time on their hand as a result of diminished workload caused by the economic downturn.
- Huge layoffs and discontent by associates and partners who are under increasing pressure to meet hourly billing requirements, which cannot be supported by the workload available.
- An increase in disgruntled clients who will realize they are being asked to pay for ‘make work’ driven by decreasing law firm workloads.
2009 should be an exciting year for the legal industry, not in its complacency but in the chaos which the market downturn will inflict upon law firms. Many of these firms will not have the foggiest idea what to do. For years, they simply added more and more associates to their model and more hours to their minimums. For the first time in many decades, lawyers will not be able to protect themselves from innovation in competition by their sheer size and momentum. All of this will be healthy for the legal industry which is long overdue for a healthy dose of change.
What are your thoughts? What changes do you expect will be coming in 2009?