Altman Weil recently released: 2018 Law Firms in Transition, an Altman Weil Flash Survey.
From the introduction, comparing today to 2009 during the Great Recession:
The threat in 2018 is broader and more nuanced, arising primarily from the sweeping force of technology evolution over the last two decades that has resulted in the commoditization and commercialization of more and more legal services….
Most law firms continue to plan for short-term incremental improvements in performance, while deferring or slow-walking more forward-looking actions to address long-term, systemic threats.
That last line reminded me of many defense lawyers during the tort reform era of the early 2000’s. They were swamped with work and could not imagine ever not being busy.
At the time, I was a defense lawyer transitioning into a plaintiff practice (talk about rotten timing). Many fellow defense lawyers told me they would always be busy because plaintiff lawyers would always file cases. I know how crazy that sounds today, but it was a common belief in 2005.
Plaintiff lawyers certainly knew better. On the defense side, there were many lawyers drawing great paychecks sitting in mass tort depositions all day who never thought about workload next month, much less in a few years. Many of those legal eagles no longer practice law or have long since left the state for easier work.
Of the defense lawyers who did think about the future, maybe 20% had an inkling what was coming. The ones who did have done a better job adjusting to the new reality.
Divorce and criminal lawyers said less personal injury and consumer fraud litigation would not impact them because it wasn’t their practice area. Now they compete with former plaintiff and defense lawyers for that work.
The Altman survey is an interesting read. Among its conclusions:
there is an oversupply of lawyers,
billable hour demand is down,
there are still