Survey shows law firms unlikely to take lead in reinventing the legal market

Jennifer Nelson
May 14, 2014
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The most likely change agent in the legal market over the next 10 years won’t be law firms, according to a survey of more than 300 firm leaders around the country. Respondents expect corporate law departments or technology innovations will be the force most likely to lead change.

Altman Weil released the results of its sixth annual Law Firms in Transition Survey Wednesday, in which it found large firms surpass smaller ones in strategic change efforts.

A majority of law firm leaders responding to the survey agree that greater price competition, practice efficiency, commoditization of legal work, competition from nontraditional service providers, and non-hourly billing are all permanent changes in the legal landscape.  For the most part, these are changes that have been imposed upon them from more demanding clients and more competitive newcomers who are challenging the rules of legal service delivery.

Nearly a third of respondents identified corporate law departments and technology innovation as what will drive change in the legal market; 15 percent said non-law firm providers of legal services, and just 10 percent said law firms will take the lead in reinventing the legal market.

The survey found many firms with fewer than 250 lawyers are not making sufficient investments in the future legal market. Nearly half of all firms with 250 or more lawyers report changing their strategic approach to pricing, but only 22 percent of firms with 50 to 249 lawyers are doing so. Nearly 60 percent of larger firms report making significant changes in their lawyer staffing strategies as compared to 41 percent of the smaller firms.

“Larger firms’ bias for longer-term strategic change is most likely a pragmatic response to greater pressure they are feeling from the large corporate clients that larger firms are more likely to serve,” said Tom Clay, Altman Weil principal and survey co-author.

Larger firms are also somewhat more likely to be driven by long-term considerations, including new pricing and service delivery strategies, according to the survey, as opposed to short-term profitability to lock in the firm’s most valuable partners.

The complete survey is available on Altman Weil’s website


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  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues