Remember that beloved ’80′s movie Back to the Future? It was one of my favorites while growing up, and I always wondered if we would have flying skateboards and cars by the year 2015 just like in the movie. Well the automakers still have 5-years to catch up with that vision, but this reminiscence makes one thing clear: 20-years can go by pretty fast. Perhaps flying cars will be here before we know it.
What about the legal industry? We here at LexisNexis wanted to know what some of the top minds thought about the direction it was heading in and what law firms could do to survive. So on Thursday, December 3, we held a panel discussion called, “Evolution or Revolution: The Future of the Law Firm Business Model” to answer that very question.
Darryl Cross, Vice President of Client Profitability for LexisNexis, moderated a discussion panel with the following participants:
- Richard N. Baer, EVP, general counsel and CAO, Qwest.
- Martin F. Cunniff, partner, Howrey.
- Michael S. Helfer, general counsel and corporate secretary, Citigroup.
- William D. Henderson, professor of law, Indiana University.
- Peter J. Kalis, chairman and global managing partner, K&L Gates.
- Thomas J. Sabatino Jr. EVP and general counsel, Schering-Plough.
- Michael F. Walsh, president and CEO, U.S. legal markets, LexisNexis.
The panelist discussed a range of topics from alternative fee agreements to the readiness of lawyers to practice in the business of law. Like most lawyers, they all had lots to say and range of opinions. Peter Kalis of K&L Gates touted the success of the alternative fee agreement, while Rich Baer of Qwest said they have been a “colossal train wreck for us.”
As for the state of the law firm business model, Tom Sabatino, formerly of Schering-Plough, said that a synergy is needed between in-house legal teams and the law firm. He noted there should never be an “us v. them” mentality. Rich Baer was quick to point out that advances in technology can replace some of the mundane tasks that used to be performed by lawyers at a hefty price tag to companies. This just underscored the next point made by Mike Walsh, CEO of North American Legal Markets for LexisNexis: “change is still needed in the law firm model because fundamental change has not happened yet. Pockets, yes, but they have been slow to adopt real change.”
The panelists also discussed law student preparedness to enter practice, reductions in legal spend, and other topics. Bob Ambrogi, lawyer, writer and “trust agent” kept an incredible Twitter Feed of the entire event, which you can see on his Twitter page. Also, Martindale-Hubbell Connected members who want to discuss the future of the legal industry can join our group in the community (some of the panelists are members and there are resources available in the group – Bob’s Twitter feed is also available for download as a PDF). You can check out another article from the Am Law Daily about the event.
So what will the law firm look like in 2015? Baer says they’ll be smaller and Kallis says they’ll be bigger. Walsh says the core model will have changed and Helfer say they’ll becoming more entrepreneurial . Sabatino says firms will be more transparent and and Cuniff says they’ll become more customized. Will any of the lawyers drive to work in a flying car? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.