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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