Law Practice Management

Law Firms Moving from Period of Growth to Era of Efficiency, Expert Says

Law firms have emerged from a period of never-ending growth to a new era of efficiency, according to a former managing partner of Arnold & Porter who is now a law firm consultant.

James Jones, managing director of Hildebrandt International, outlined his vision for the future during a conference of the National Association for Law Placement, Above the Law reports.

Jones said a focus on increased efficiency is a natural development for a maturing industry. He expects a “disaggregation” or “unbundling” of legal services in which law firms will work with less expensive co-counsel on cases, or law firms will give some parts of a legal problem to their own less expensive employees.

For example, librarians could do initial legal research before turning it over to associates for analysis, according to Above the Law’s report on Jones’ predictions. Staff lawyers could focus on discovery work. Specialist lawyers could be hired to do work on certain kinds of cases without any expectation that they will become partners.

Jones also foresees a more flexible approach to salaries, as law firms do away with lockstep compensation and embrace incentive- and competency-based pay models. He also said some associate salaries may be cut.

“A financial crisis is a terrible thing to waste,” Jones said, according to the story. “We may someday look back upon 2009 as a tipping point for the legal profession.”

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