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. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  2. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

  3. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  4. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  5. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

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