I participated in the Vistage All-City event in San Diego last week where Brian Beaulieu of ITR Economics spoke about how to stay ahead of the curve in light of the economic forecast for 2014 and beyond. His view: The long-term economic outlook remains dark with the next big downturn expected in 2018. Inflation and taxation will continue to plague the economy. The ITR outlook shows:
2013 – Flat
2014 – Slight Decline
2015-2017 – Growth
2018-2019: “Nasty” Decline
So what does that mean for the legal profession?
First, it does not mean that business will go away. The greatest drivers of the economic slowdown — increased taxes, healthcare costs, the Dodd-Frank Act and other regulations, will create business opportunities for lawyers.
Second, with economic downturn comes resilience. We have already witnessed a number of industries reinvent themselves to thrive in the coming decade. This will create more opportunities for lawyers.
Third, the U.S. remains the venue of choice for litigation both at home and for global companies doing business here. There will be no shortage of need for good lawyers.
All of that said, there is an important caveat: Point Four. Law firms cannot afford to wait it out any longer. We saw what happened to many firms that failed to respond to the signs that led to the financial collapse in 2008. The signs for 2018 and 2019 are clear. Lawyers must stop putting their head in the sand and start investing in their futures.
Here are two questions every lawyer must answer today:
1) What clients can serve that you are not currently serving?
2) What new services can offer that your current clients need?
The challenges facing the legal industry are no different than any other industry that has had to reinvent itself in light of changing economic conditions. Yet firms continue to be slow to change. In the next three years firms have a window to prepare for the future. But it will requires an investment of time, resources and capital. It is hard work, but one that will come with a payoff. The question is: Are you ready to make the change?