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. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.