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The Law Firm, Circa 2018

What will the legal landscape look like in 2018?  Rather than wait ten years for an answer, international law firm Eversheds decided to peek into the future for itself, commissioning a major study entitled "The Law Firm of the 21st Century," discussing likely trends in the legal profession over the next decade.  The study's findings, based on a survey of 50 partners at 25 top firms and 50 corporate clients, are summarized in this press release, posted yesterday at Law Fuel.  (H/T to What About Clients.)

The study included several predictions, many of which, in my view, are best characterized as "the more things change, the more they stay the same."  For example, the study indicated a possible erosion of the dominance of the quintet of global, London-based firms known as the Magic Circle as one-third of the study's respondents said that they planned to obtain legal services from other firms to get better value for money and better client service. 

Likewise, despite the persistent cries of death to the billable hour, few predict its demise.  Despite taking a licking, over 80 percent of lawyers and partners expect the billable hour will still be ticking in 2018.  And only half of the study's participants believe that credible work-life balance is compatible with large firm practice, with just 40 percent of study participants stating that flexible work hours should be a key business objective for law firms. 

The survey suggests that the biggest challenge law firms need to address over the next ten years is the potential for commoditization of legal services.  The report recommends that partners need to constantly re-evaluate their practice and ensure that the work they are doing remains "premium."   

Quite honestly, I don't see how the legal landscape of 2018 differs all that much from the way it looks today.  In 2018, clients will demand good value for service, and will leave if they don't get it -- just as they are beginning to do now.  And while in 2018, more aspects of law practice will become mechanized, clients will always need experts for premium legal service -- just as they do now.  Is it really going to take another decade for law firms to realize and deliver what clients want right now?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on February 20, 2008 at 02:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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