Archive for the ‘Trends’ Category

Law firm as e-discovery vendor

September 26th, 2012 by Altman Weil

The Legal Intelligencer reports an interesting trend that we’ve been watching:

“Amid a flurry of law firms in recent years that have formed an e-discovery practice group, Drinker Biddle & Reath has taken the concept a step further by creating a subsidiary to handle the technical aspect of mining electronic data in litigation. The concept is one consultants said could spread to other law firms as they look to recapture revenue lost to legal process outsource companies.”

Altman Weil experts Jim Michalowicz and Dan DiLucchio are presenting a fascinating new webinar on E-Discovery Strategies for Law Firms on November 1.

Read more at The Legal Intelligencer

Law firm growth options and 5-year outlook

August 8th, 2012 by Altman Weil

The 2012 Law Firms in Transition Survey asked firm leaders about their growth plans for 2012 and their expectations for firm growth over the next five years.  This special report from the survey highlights lateral growth, new offices, mergers and acquisitions and breaks out the results by firm size.

Read it at Altman Weil

Law firms’ greatest challenges

August 2nd, 2012 by Altman Weil

The 2012 Law Firms in Transition Surveyasked firm leaders to comment on their firms’ greatest challenges in the next 24 months.  In an Altman Weil special report, we’ve identified the top areas of concern, analyzed responses by firm size, and included a selection of sample comments from firm leaders.

Read it at Altman Weil

Innovative alternative offers value to clients

July 20th, 2012 by Altman Weil

A UK law firm, Dundas & Wilson, has developed a new “Legal Services Unit” staffed by paralegals to offer clients lower prices on routine work while still retaining their business. 

“The initiative, which Dundas is dubbing a “firm within a firm”, will see a nine-strong team of paralegals split across Dundas’s Scottish offices take on searches, filings, registrations, basic due diligence and document review and collation work.” according to Legal Week.

The firm’s Managing Partner explains:

“Clients are keen for their law firms to come up with innovative ways to resource their work and deliver new models that can improve efficiency.  The LSU allows us to provide clients with more flexible resource for volume tasks, but at the same time, retain the assurance of having work done by a leading law firm.”

Read it at Legal Week

More bad news for new lawyers

June 19th, 2012 by Altman Weil

This month, the American Bar Association (ABA) and the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) have both published the latest dismal statistics for new law school graduates.  The National Law Journal profiled their findings:

“Slightly more than half of the class of 2011 — 55 percent — found full-time, long-term jobs that require bar passage nine months after they graduated, according to employment figures released on June 18 by the American Bar Association.

The statistic was perhaps the most sobering in a season of bad news about new lawyer employment. Less than one week earlier, the National Association for Law Placement reported that only two-thirds of new graduates landed any type of job requiring their law degree, and that the overall employment rate hit an 18-year low at 85.6 percent.”

Read it at

Additional data from the NALP report noted that jobs in private practice also dropped in 2011:

“Not quite half (49.5%) of employed graduates obtained a job in private practice, a drop from 50.9% for the Class of 2010, which in turn was a full 5 percentage point decline from 2009. In most of the 38 years for which NALP has collected employment information, the percentage of jobs in law firms has been in the 55-58% range and has been below 50% only once before 2011.”

Read it at NALP

Supporting this gloomy picture, Altman Weil’s 2012 Law Firm’s in Transition Survey reported that 25.8% of law firms either reduced or discontinued hiring of first-year associates in 2011.  And 55.4% of firms think that reduced first year classes will be a permanent trend going forward.

Read it at Altman Weil

The ABA Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar has an online tool that allows you to generate a report summarizing employment results for 2011 graduates of any US law school.  They also provide a downloadable spreadsheet of all results for 2011 graduates.

Read it at ABA

Technology-driven change

June 15th, 2012 by Altman Weil

Freshfields attorneys Timothy Harkness and Dana Post point out two 2012 court rulings that they believe signal a new era in the legal industry:

“Over the past few decades, the technology revolution has profoundly changed the marketplace as machines have replaced humans in virtually every sector in the global economy.  The impact of technology was particularly felt in sectors such as the automobile industry where skilled workers were replaced by automated labor in the forms of computers and robots.

Many attorneys, however, felt that the legal profession was insulated from the changes that had rocked other industries.  They were wrong.  Indeed, those paying attention to the practice of law in recent years have witnessed signs that the legal profession is about to experience the same sort of transformative change that revolutionized the automobile industry towards the end of the 20th century.  

Computers, once thought of as tools for lawyers, are well on their way to replacing much of the work that lawyers do altogether.  This profound change took a giant step forward recently when two courts endorsed what is cryptically called ‘predictive coding’ —the use of sophisticated algorithms to enable computer software to determine the relevance of documents.”

You may not know much about predictive coding - and you may not want to know - but the march of this kind of technological change is inexorable.  Technology is changing the way lawyers practice, ready or not.

Read it at Thomson Reuters News & Insight 

2012 Law Firms in Transition Survey

May 16th, 2012 by Altman Weil

Altman Weil has released its fourth annual survey of Managing Partners and Chairs of US law firms with 50 or more lawyers.  The survey includes sections on economic performance and billing rates, alternative fee arrangements, firm growth, lawyer and staffing levels, succession planning, client relationships and the future of the profession. 

Many of the 2012 Law Firms in Transition Survey findings take the form of good news/bad news:

  • Revenue was up in most firms, but so were expenses. 
  • Profits were up, but at a pace that is likely to be permanently slowed. 
  • Firms are raising their rates, but many do not expect to realize the full increase.
  • Fewer law firms expect to make personnel cuts, but in those that do, equity partners are among the most vulnerable. 
  • Associate compensation may begin to rise again, but will be spread across smaller incoming classes.
  • Firms are gaining experience with alternative fee arrangements, but most firms are still using AFAs reactively and less profitably than hourly billing. 
  • Firms have profitability data available, but they don’t use it as well as they might. 
  • Law firm leaders have moderate to high confidence about their own ability to navigate the changes ahead, but they are less sure that their partners are paying adequate attention. 

Read it at Altman Weil 

Outside ownership of law firms

April 18th, 2012 by Altman Weil

At least for now, non-lawyer ownership of law firms is off the table in the US (except in Washington DC where it is allowed in a limited way).  Both Australia and the UK have recently allowed outside investment in law firms. 

“The ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20 has decided that it will not develop a proposal for consideration by the association’s policy-making House of Delegates on whether nonlawyers should be allowed to have some form of limited ownership interest in U.S. law firms.

In a joint statement … co-chairs Jamie S. Gorelick and Michael Traynor confirmed that the commission agreed at its meeting last week in Washington, D.C., to shelve plans to submit a proposal on nonlawyer ownership for consideration by the House in when it convenes during February’s 2013 ABA Midyear Meeting in Dallas. Gorelick and Traynor indicated that feedback received from other bar associations and individual members of the profession did not suggest a groundswell of support for revising the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct to permit a limited form of nonlawyer ownership. The Model Rules, which are the direct basis for professional conduct rules in all states except California, currently do not permit nonlawyer ownership.

“Since its creation in 2009, the commission has undertaken a careful study of alternative law practice structures,” Gorelick and Traynor said in their statement. “Based on the commission’s extensive outreach, research, consultation, and the response of the profession, there does not appear to be a sufficient basis for recommending a change to ABA policy on nonlawyer ownership of law firms.”

Read it at ABA Journal

Paperless law offices

March 23rd, 2012 by Altman Weil

Does your firm convert incoming paper documents to electronic format on a systematic basis? It might come as a surprise that nearly a quarter of law firms say they have formal paperless office programs in place.  Last December, Altman Weil conducted a Flash Survey on this topic that offers some insights for firms reviewing their own paperless initiatives or considering implementing one.

Read it at Altman Weil

Innovation adds value and creates client loyalty

March 19th, 2012 by Altman Weil

Last fall the Emerging Companies practice group at Perkins Coie in Seattle developed a free, web-based form-generator for start up companies “to put together the early-stage documents they need to create their companies without having to pay attorneys to do it for them.”  They liken it to TurboTax for entrepreneurs.

Perkins Coie partner Buddy Arnheim says that clients used to pay the firm for this work, but the firm would rather focus on counseling services which represent the greatest added value.

“The new free form-generation will help automate the simpler tasks that the law firm was already trying to give to its lower-paid employees or consultants to keep costs low for startups. Now, the entrepreneurs can do it themselves, then come to Perkins Coie when they really need assistance.”

Read it at Puget Sound Business Journal