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The Future of Law Practice Management

The College of Law Practice Management annual meeting took place on Saturday, September 8th. We spent the morning examining the future of law practice management. 

Our wide ranging discussion is hard to summarize in a few words. For each of the several broad topics we covered, I offer below a few of the observations and comments that struck me as most interesting.

Law Firm Marketing

  • A leading marketing expert believes that law firms have, by and large, blown branding.
  • The huge success of leading law firms inhibits marketing. Hungry firms will innovate. Except for lock step Magic Circle
  • Marketing is about content and blogs are best way to get content out on the web. [ok, said and reported by a blogger.]
  • Alternative billing is the future – it has been for a long time and will be in the future

Talent

  • A leading legal supplier has conducted a major survey of associates in US law firms. It covers thousands of lawyers across firms of all sizes. Bottom line: lawyers are much more satisfied with their work and life than much of the press we have read would have us believe.
  • New lawyers are willing to work hard but want to work smart. They find big firms don’t work smart
  • A large firm is using contract lawyers extensively, not so much for low level work but more to allow flexibility for lawyers. One partner moved to contract lawyer status for more flexibility.

Management

  • Promise steady compensation for partners who are retiring. Make the condition not maintaining billable hours; rather focus on a clean transition of both know-how and clients to the firm.
  • Firms don’t pay for the right kind of management, especially at the practice group level.
  • Lawyers need to learn how to be followers to help leaders succeed

Technology

  • Technology allows workers to do the wrong thing faster and cheaper and can reinforce elaborate bad ideas

  • Everyone can be a producer as well as consumer (aka Web 2.0)
  • The problem today is not making a computer do what lawyers do but that lawyers now do what computers can easily do
  • Technology has a dark side; it can create social isolation
  1. David Hobbie

    Ron–

    I am intrigued by some of the “negative” or “dark” perceptions of technology that were discussed. Were there any examples that you can share of either the social isolation or how technology “allows workers to do the wrong thing faster and cheaper” or reinforce elaborate bad ideas.”?

    It strikes me that the capacity of the Web 2.0 tools to enhance sharing and collaboration can potentially address some of the social isolation, though not without getting lawyers to actually share and work together.

    David