2014 marked the 100th anniversary of World War I – the “Tipping Point” wherein the automobile forever replaced the horse as the predominant form of ground transportation in the modern era. In the three decades that followed World War I, livery stables closed and buggy whip manufacturers went out of business.
The Great Recession of 2008 has served as a “Tipping Point” of its own sort for the legal profession, where alternative legal services delivery models – LegalZoom for consumers and Legal Process Outsourcing companies (“LPOs”) for corporations – now challenge the monopoly that traditional law firms once held for legal services delivery. Prices for legal services are plummeting in a free fall. Competition for clients is at an all-time high, even as U.S. law schools churn out 44,000 new lawyers a year into a 100% saturated legal market. Corporate clients in the current buyers’ market are increasingly demanding lower, fixed prices and value-based Alternative Fee Arrangements (“AFAs”) in lieu of hourly billing – making law firms bear the ‘risk of loss’ in uncertain but complex litigation and transaction matters – even as the costs of running law firms continue to climb. To survive, most law firms have already morphed from their 1980s ‘Pyramid’ shaped organizational structures into ‘Diamond’ shaped organizational structures staffed by experienced attorneys – with virtually no associates to ‘fill out’ the base of once ‘Pyramid’ shaped law firm. But some commentators believe that this ‘Diamond’ shaped organizational structure is only a temporary change – like the hull of a great ship that rises out of the water before the whole thing sinks. What if in our lifetime we are watching the end of law firms, just as our great grandfathers watched the end of livery stables? From ‘Pony Express’ to ‘Federal Express’…
In this thought-provoking CLE presentation, attorney Mark Lassiter presents his vision of how the legal profession can ‘rise like the great Phoenix out of the ashes’ of its current malaise – all without traditional law firms. He argues that, if current legal trends continue unabated, the historic law firms as we have known them must become extinct – with the largest dying last. He does NOT argue that lawyers will not practice together with each other in communities or associations. Rather, he argues that such associations will look different from the traditional law firms of the 20th Century, which still prevail (for now…). He predicts a day when future lawyers will collaborate and work together on legal matters in Cloud based, temporary ‘teams’– not based on law firm allegiances or employment, but rather on their own, specific expertise and skill sets. In other words, the ‘mission’ (not the ‘law firm’) will drive and determine the lawyers and staff recruited to a temporary legal team – allowing clients to ‘cherry pick’ the best, most qualified lawyers and legal staff for the clients’ unique legal matters – with all legal work tasks being monitored and controlled from secure, Cloud-based portals. Such arrangements will empower solo and small practice lawyers, ‘Soccer Mom’ and ‘Disabled Dad’ lawyers, and young, new lawyers as never before.
If you are a new, small, solo or part-time lawyer you won’t want to miss hearing how the coming decades may actually be the best yet for attorneys like you. Come and watch this thought-provoking presentation from one of America’s emerging legal thought leaders.