The firm of the future

April 22, 2009
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The structure of law firms is pretty uniform across Indiana and the country. Look at one law firm in the state and compare it to a similarly sized one in Ohio or Illinois, and chances are, they are set up and run in a nearly identical fashion. Law firms, especially the larger ones, are kind of stuck in their ways when it come to billing, partnership tracks, and law firm structure. In fact, you could probably even compare a firm from 2009 to one from 1959 or even 1909 and see many similarities.

But a competition in Bloomington over this past weekend attempted to shake up the law firm structure and provide a model for what law firms should look like in order to survive the current economy and beyond.

The inaugural competition, FutureFirm 1.0, was made up of teams of law firm partners, associates, clients, business leaders, in-house counsel, and law students from around the country. The goal: create the law firm of the future, one that will thrive 20 years into the future. The prize: $9,000 for the winners, with other prize money split among the other groups.

The winning group designed a law firm that focused on workplace culture, targeted small and mid-sized businesses as clients, emphasized a more collaborative and equitable working environment, used an alternative fee billing plan for clients, and focused on making attorneys as efficient and cost-effective as possible.

It sounds good, but how easy would it be to implement it in a real, working firm? This is just a competition with a fictional firm, and law firms have been doing what they’ve been doing for years because that’s how it’s always been done.

Is this competition on the right track for designing the law firm of the future? Aren’t some firms already implementing these ideas? What changes would you make to the current firm structure to make it thrive now and into the future?
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  1. I'm not sure what's more depressing: the fact that people would pay $35,000 per year to attend an unaccredited law school, or the fact that the same people "are hanging in there and willing to follow the dean’s lead in going forward" after the same school fails to gain accreditation, rendering their $70,000 and counting education worthless. Maybe it's a good thing these people can't sit for the bar.

  2. Such is not uncommon on law school startups. Students and faculty should tap Bruce Green, city attorney of Lufkin, Texas. He led a group of studnets and faculty and sued the ABA as a law student. He knows the ropes, has advised other law school startups. Very astute and principled attorney of unpopular clients, at least in his past, before Lufkin tapped him to run their show.

  3. Not that having the appellate records on Odyssey won't be welcome or useful, but I would rather they first bring in the stray counties that aren't yet connected on the trial court level.

  4. Aristotle said 350 bc: "The most hated sort, and with the greatest reason, is usury, which makes a gain out of money itself, and not from the natural object of it. For money was intended to be used in exchange, but not to increase at interest. And this term interest, which means the birth of money from money, is applied to the breeding of money because the offspring resembles the parent. Wherefore of an modes of getting wealth this is the most unnatural.

  5. Oh yes, lifetime tenure. The Founders gave that to the federal judges .... at that time no federal district courts existed .... so we are talking the Supreme Court justices only in context ....so that they could rule against traditional marriage and for the other pet projects of the sixties generation. Right. Hmmmm, but I must admit, there is something from that time frame that seems to recommend itself in this context ..... on yes, from a document the Founders penned in 1776: " He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good."

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