Law firm leaders expect permanent change to the industry

There has been a radical shift in attitudes since 2009

The times, they are a’changin’. For everyone, but for the legal industry in particular. With the slow and painful demise of Dewey & LeBoeuf, and a warning that more law firms may be heading the same way, perhaps it’s not surprising to hear that firm leaders see permanent change to the industry on the horizon.

Legal consulting firm Altman Weil released its fourth annual “Law Firms in Transition Survey” on Wednesday, which revealed that since the survey’s inception in 2009 there has been a major shift in attitude among managing partners and chairs at 792 large U.S. law firms. Trends that were largely seen as temporary in 2009 are now viewed as becoming part of the job for good. Here are some of the key findings from the survey:

  • 92 percent of respondents believed that there will be more price competition in the long-term, as opposed to 42 percent in 2009
  • 46 percent expect that outsourcing legal work will become a permanent fixture, compared with 12 percent in 2009
  • 80 percent anticipate more firms will adopt nonhourly billing, whereas only 28 percent believed that in 2009. (This might not be a bad thing, though. InsideCounsel’s own career expert, Mike Evers, explained in a recent column why nonhourly billing may make for happier lawyers.)
  • 68 percent of those surveyed expect there will be fewer equity partners in law firms, as opposed to 2009, when only 23 percent thought that would be the case
  • Law firm leaders gave themselves a median rating of 7 out of 10 on their confidence to deal with these upcoming issues
  • Respondents felt that in the face of these challenges, sustaining and growing profitability was their biggest concern

Download the full survey here.

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