Law by the Numb#rs

Reality Sinks in: Attitudes Have Changed About the Post-Recession Marketplace


Back in spring 2009, few law firm leaders told the first Altman Weil Law Firms in Transition Survey that they believed several law practice challenges highlighted by the recession were permanent. But four years have made a huge difference.

The 2012 Law Firms in Transition Survey found a dramatic shift in attitudes, with 92 percent of respondents saying they believe that more price competition will be a permanent fixture of the post-recession legal marketplace. This is more than twice the 42 percent who thought so in 2009 when the survey was first conducted.

For 10 core issues identified in each iteration of the annual survey, the 2012 report says, the number of law firm leaders who believe there will be permanent change in those areas has doubled, tripled, quadrupled or more between 2009 and 2012.

All of these statistics show a major shift in leaders’ assessment of what the profession will face in its future.

“Emerging legal market trends that were viewed with considerable skepticism in 2009 have become majority opinions in 2012,” said Altman Weil principal Eric Seeger. “These are striking changes.”

“Many of the challenges facing law firm leaders in 2012 are now well-defined and largely agreed upon,” said Altman Weil principal Thomas Clay. “But the best way to respond to this array of changes is less well-understood.”

Conducted in March and April this year, the survey polled managing partners and chairs at 792 U.S. law firms with 50 or more lawyers. Completed surveys were received from 238 firms. Participation in previous years has been similar, with about 30 percent of firms contacted responding.

The full survey includes sections on economic performance and billing rates, alternative fee arrangements, firm growth, lawyer and staffing levels, succession planning, client relationships and the future of the profession. It is available for download at altmanweil.com/LFiT2012. The trend chart may be downloaded at altmanweil.com/TenTrends.

Data excerpts from The 2012 Law Firms in Transition Survey by Eric Seeger and Thomas Clay, principals at Altman Weil.

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Graphics by Jamie Gannon

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