Information Super-Overload: Is information overload killing productivity?
California Bar Journal Article “Will A Bad Economy Force More Changes In The Profession?”

Top Ten Things I Expect To See In 2009.

Here are the top ten things I expect to see in 2009:

  1. The continued explosion of the use of Twitter by attorneys in order to accumulate their feed content from their blogs.
  2. A faster pace for law firm innovation driven by the economic downturn and hyper-competitiveness of the legal market.
  3. The first seeds of realization by clients that there are significant differences between firms and their service offerings.
  4. Large firms breaking up into smaller pieces as practice groups leave their firms to start new firms.
  5. Continued move toward specialization by attorneys as the words “general practice” start scaring away clients who realize their problems are anything but general.
  6. 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).
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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?

Comments

Bill E

What is Twitter and how can Twitter make my law firm more profitable?

Law firm management; practice management; flat fee;

In tune with number 5, I foresee clients also becoming more educated about the legal problems they face and seeking out practice specific counsel to handle their particular legal issues. Just as a person with a heart condition goes to a cardiologist rather than his family practitioner, entities will now seek firms focused on the area of law in which they have a legal problem.

Clients will also select counsel based upon not only the traditional factors (such as reputation, recommendation, etc.) but also upon factors such as alternative billing (i.e. flat fees) and the ability to offer number 7 from above (i.e. a transparent extranet system). Clients will be less willing to simply drop a retainer onto the table and continously replenish it without an expectation as to deliverables and ultimate cost. Law practice will more closely align with such service industries as accounting and it consulting in this regard.


~B

Joe

I'm betting that we will see more people entering law school. As jobs continue to dry up, displaced workers will re-enter school. More lawyers means more competition, which in turn will require more creativity and innovation to overcome the signal to noise ratio in the marketplace.

Ben F.

More lawyer alcoholics as well as their worlds come crashing down around them. More lawyer divorces as their spouses send them packing (after all, most spouses only tolerated their lawyers spouse in the first place because they were making gobs of money).

MC

I agree, particularly with your comment concerning huge layoffs and discontent by associates and partners under increasing pressure to meet hourly billing requirements that cannot be sustained by available workloads. The work is not there and I simply don’t see lawyers opting for other areas of work, simply because there are none available. What I see happening is the unraveling of the large law firms spawned by their inability to adapt to new business models offering something other than a high hourly billing rate for work. Clients understand they are simply not going to obtain value under that model in an economy where clients are scrutinizing whether they are receiving a bang for their buck.

Carolyn Elefant

I agree with all of them, but I thought that the most interesting was that more lawyers would start blogs now that they have time on their hands. That is exactly right! Hopefully, the increased time will improve the quality too.

GAL

Carolyn:

I came to the conclusion that extra time might also lead to extra (and higher quality) blogs because that is what I have seen in my own life. If I go through a stretch where I am not crammed with everyday client work, I tend to blog more aggressively. Moreover, the quality of my blog post does increase. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!

brian tannebaum

I think weaved in to all of this is what I've been hoping for years - that clients would realize what they are really paying for with BigLaw is perception and embossed coffee mugs. BigLaw has had success convincing clients and associates that there is no other way to practice law and no other place to find good lawyers.

I feel terrible for the BigLaw associates who thought there was a future in working on other lawyer's client's files and now realize that a real lawyer is one who has their own clients, but I feel no love lost for the BigLaw concept, which was always destined to fail when clients got smart.

David Shulman

Very interesting. And while I think it's true for many smaller firms and sole practitioners, I think most big firms are still in the dinosaur age with regards to their tech.

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