I came across a great article entitled “The Future of Law Firms – Where is All This Heading?” by John O. Cunningham. The article was derived from Mr. Cunningham’s opening remarks to the General Counsel Panel on Jun 23, 2004. In his remarks, Mr. Cunningham breaks down what has happened to law firms since 1974 to the present day and then projects what the future may hold up to the year 2034. The bottom line is that survival is optional and that change is inevitable. Here is a quick summary of what has happened/will happen according to that article (keep in mind that it is U.S. centric):
1974 – Advertising by lawyers is generally forbidden. There aren’t any personal computers.
1977 – U.S. Supreme Court lifts the ban against lawyer advertising. Lawyer bills have little or no documentation of time or billing rates.
1984 – Lawyers are still not really getting involved in marketing or advertising. Law schools become very populated and competitive.
1990 – After 10 years of computing, lawyers begin to communicate with clients using e-mail.
1994 – Law firms begin hiring marketing managers. Clients start using bidding contests to select law firms like other vendors do.
2000 – Law firms acquire other practices, split up, and get acquired more and more.
2004 – Law firms are looking for competitive intelligence or marketing information. Law firms hire public relations specialists to place their stories in print/electronic media. Lawyers are using blackberries. Law firms spend lots of time on management issues rather than legal practice.
2014 – Firms have full time CEOs to manage the company and anticipate industry/client demands.
2019 – Paperless cyber-registry for instant electronic recording of corporate and real estate documents. Trial courts will become paperless too.
2024 – Most law firms will have the equivalent of an executive in charge of sales and marketing. Client service will be the focus. Most people will look to lawyers as the best service providers and one of the most competitive professions in the world. Lawyers will be looked at for their strategic thinking. More CEOs will be lawyers by training.
2029 – Lawyers will serve hundreds of clients in a fraction of the time and cost through well-oiled machines.
2034 – Managing partners at firms develop internal culture for recruiting, development, and advancement of work to reinforce the firm’s brand.
Overall, a great article and well worth the read!