Economy has shifted law firm leaders' attitudes

May 16, 2012
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The downturn in the economy has led to more law firm leaders accepting legal market trends that many had dismissed several years ago.

According to Altman Weil’s 2012 Law Firms in Transition survey, the legal management consulting company found that the emerging market trends that were viewed with skepticism in 2009 – when the company first produced this survey – have become majority opinions this year.

In 2009, 42 percent of those surveyed believed that more price competition will be a permanent fixture of the post-recession legal market; 92 percent believe that now.

In 2009, 23 percent of firm leaders believed that there would be fewer equity partners in law firms than in the past; this year, 68 percent believed that.

This year, 84 percent of those surveyed believe more commoditization of legal work will be a permanent change; in 2009, only 26 percent of respondents thought that was the case.  

Smaller first-year classes are most likely here to stay. This year, 55 percent responded they believe that, whereas back in 2009, only 11 percent did.

The survey also looks at the confidence and concerns law firm leaders in the U.S. have. The leaders gave themselves a median rating of seven on a scale of zero (not at all confident) to 10 (completely confident) regarding their overall confidence that their firms are fully prepared to keep pace with the challenges of the new legal marketplace. Last year, the median rating was eight.

Altman Weil found respondents’ primary concerns for the next two years include sustaining and growing profitability, succession, and attracting and maintaining talented lawyers.

The full 75-page survey is available on Altman Weil’s website.


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