The Economist: A Less Guilded future for lawyers and law firms?

On May 5, 2011, The Economist ran a story about the less guilded future for law firms: profits are no longer guaranteed and survival is now becoming the focus.  The article mentions a few things which I tend to agree with, such as:

  1. Lawyering is as much of a business as it is a profession (although some lawyers decry this).
  2. Firms have to find new ways to stand their brand stand out.
  3. Lawyers can become experts in other industries (not just areas of legal practice) in order to make themselves stand out.
  4. All in one professional service firms (which combine lawyers, accountants, consultants, etc.) may be a good idea, but difficult to implement given the different personalities of those professionals.

Finally, the article mentions some trends which will continue to shape the legal services industry:

  1. Clients are determined to keep their costs down and won’t pay for routine work billed to young associates.
  2. Alternative fee arrangements are growing in importance (e.g. contingency and flat fee billing, etc.).
  3. Globalization allows clients and lawyers to reach across boundaries when it comes to things like outsourcing and attracting new markets.
  4. Technology is being used by firms to reduce their cost and make their services more efficient (e.g. filtering emails, e-discovery, etc.).

In another article published by The Economist on the same day entitled "How to Curb Your Legal Bill", the article talks about how outsourcing basic or repetitive tasks is becoming more prevalent while clients are demanding cost controls.

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