New law firm realities

In a conference session reported by Legal Current, James Jones, co-managing director of Hildebrandt Baker Robbins, provided an interesting message on "Rethinking the Nature of Legal Services: Challenges for Law Firms in a Time of (R)evolutionary Change".

James Jones focused on the factors contributing to the current buyer's market for legal services and explained that the current downturn in law firm business is due to factors like:

  • Availability of information
  • Drive toward commoditization
  • Growth of enabling technologies
  • Emergence of new service providers
  • Lopsided economic model

Jones said law firms need to move toward new business models, including those that are considerably more creative and flexible in:

  • Pricing legal services
  • Designing and managing legal work processes
  • Recruiting, managing and retaining talent
  • Partnering with other service providers to achieve efficiencies

The move toward new business models is an issue that we have explored in a recent article in KIM Legal Magazine, "New Horizons", where we predict the move from today's pyramid-style structure (a large base of junior associates with a few partners on top) to a more rhombus-like shape (with a larger number of associates with some years experience and a lessened basis of junior associates), when many of the tasks carried out by junior associates will be replaced by standardisation of processes and new techniques.

In the article, we also concluded that with this higher ratio of more expensive senior associates, it becomes increasingly important to focus on standardisation of processes, with technology as a vital support. Core services also need to be refined. To achieve success in the long run, law firms need to find new, more cost-efficive ways to deliver the same quality legal services, while maintaining profit margins and implementing the appropriate KM tools to support the business. Please read the full articles for further details.


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