June 23, 2014
At a recent Managing Partner Forum event in Atlanta, the law firm leaders in the audience were polled on their opinions about the state of the legal industry. The results offer an insight into the candid thoughts of the 100-plus Small and Midsized Law firm decision-makers who attended the May 8 MPF Leadership Conference.
Notably, 68 percent of respondents said they felt that the “legal profession had experienced profound and permanent change over the past 10 years.” Thirty-two percent said they were “very concerned” about their firm’s longevity. Those numbers indicate that law firm leaders realize the world has changed, and a significant portion of them are not confident their firm can adapt to the new reality quickly or effectively enough to survive. This is roughly in accord with Altman Weil’s “Law Firms In Transition” survey, which found that law firms were troubled by static demand for legal services, competition and increased price pressure.
Those two aforementioned responses should not be taken to mean that these law firms are sitting idly by. Seventy percent of respondents said a firm-wide strategic plan was “absolutely essential” to long-term success. Respondents also said in response to market pressures, they’re investing in marketing and business development, “improv[ing] internal processes and procedures” and going after lateral hires with established clientele.
One thing to note about that response is that respondents said they felt a plan was “essential,” not that they had such a plan or were experiencing success in implementing it. Past surveys and studies have also found that law firm leaders believe in plans, but most have found that the respondent firms either had yet to put such a plan in place, or else hadn’t yet seen that plan gain traction.
So, are law firm leaders pessimistic about the future? Not necessarily. Eighty-eight percent of them reported enjoying the leadership role. That suggests that a remarkably can-do attitude, even in the fact of significant and challenging obstacles.