Outside looking in

Reflections on the impact of the emerging Global 25: Part 1

The American Lawyer’s “Second 200” issue provides more evidence of the widening gap between the country’s largest firms and everyone else:  A $1.1 million gap to be exact. That is the difference in average profits per partner for the top 23 firms compared to those of the next 27 firms.

As discussed in my previous post, Time to decide what you are NOT good at, law firms outside the AmLaw 50 are losing both their top talent and their share of the most profitable work to what is emerging as the Global 25.

So where does that leave the firms outside the new elite?

According to The American Lawyer Editor-in-Chief  Aric Press, there is one consequence of the growing chasm between the law firm haves and have nots that few firms have embraced: rethinking core work processes to improve profitability and better serve clients .

This is the opportunity firms of all sizes can and must seize upon. For those outside the Global 25, it is an opportunity to control one’s destiny.

Fundamentally, this means that lawyers will need to stop equating working the hardest and the longest with productivity and profitability. They need to acknowledge that the aspects of their practices that make them feel the safest can no longer define them.

I’m talking about the “stuff” of lawyering – drafting deal documents, filling out forms, writing motions, filing court papers. In reality, this “stuff” is usually done inefficiently. It encourages lawyers to start from scratch instead of cutting and pasting, to draft a motion when an email can accomplish the same result, or to take 20 depositions when two will do.

These things take time and result in billable hours. But at the end of the day, it’s just “stuff.” The real value lawyers provide is what comes with that stuff. Opening doors for clients. Making a vilified client look sympathetic before a jury. Creative deal terms that make both sides feel like they won. Strategic advice on how to use the law to solve a problem or leverage an opportunity.

These skills are far more valuable that filling out forms but impossible to price in six minute increments.

Yes this means rethinking fee arrangements. Yes it means embracing so-called “disruptive” technology. Yes this will require consideration of concepts like project management and outsourcing – terms many believe to be “anti-lawyer.” Yes it means changing the definition of partnership and how you utilize associates.

It won’t be easy. It won’t happen overnight. But the chasm is already exists. How wide do you want it to get?


Posted on June 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

Share the Story

About the Author

Back to Top