Posted by: johnocunningham | June 19, 2012

Permanent Changes in Legal Market Trends

Changes in the market for legal services that were once thought to be temporary based on the last economic recession, are no longer perceived as such by those in law firm leadership, according to consulting firm Altman Weil.

Based on responses from 238 law firm chairmen and managing partners at firms of at least 50 lawyers (40 percent coming from the largest 250 law firms), the 2012 Law Firms in Transition Survey by Altman Weil has determined that “many of the challenges facing law firm leaders are now well-defined and largely agreed upon” as well.

As demonstrated by the report, only a minority of leaders viewed price competition, non-hourly billing and the use of contract lawyers as permanent growth trends in 2009, but the vast majority of leaders now see those changes as part of the permanent market landscape for legal services.

Furthermore, the report shows that 95.8 percent of leaders now believe that management focus on “improved practice efficiency” is a permanent trend.

Stunningly, however, law firm leaders assess their own partners’ awareness of the new challenges at median rating of just 6 on a scale of 1 to 10. Thus, these leaders have some skepticism about the ability of their firms to keep pace with market demands.

While many partners outside of management and leadership functions appear to be holding out hope for a “return to normal,” law firm leaders who are charged with understanding the competitive environment disagree. In fact, 96 percent of those leaders expect the recently rapid pace of change in the profession to accelerate or at least stay the same.

The great challenge for law firms now is clearly to get all of their partners to understand what is going on outside of their four office walls. This report may help to accomplish that goal. The 2012 Law Firms in Transition Survey is well worth reading for those who are legal market watchers, concerned practitioners and legal marketing pros.

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