Law.com Blog Network

  • An Affiliate of the Law.com Network

    From the Law.com Newswire

    Sign up to receive Legal Blog Watch by email
    View a Sample

« Turning Experience into an Asset: One Lawyer's Transition from Jurist to Private Attorney | Main | Reality Check: Gloria Noh Cannon Counsels Caution on Moving to an In-house Job »

Eversheds Report Discusses Work-life Balance and Other Trends Affecting Law Firms in the 21st Century

How will the law firm of the 21st century look?  What challenges will it face?  Will work-life balance continue to be important to lawyers?  What will happen to the billable hour?  How can law firms improve their commitment to diversity?

Eversheds, one of the largest full-service law firms in the world, wanted answers to such questions, so it hired RSG Consulting, a specialty consultant that serves international law firms, to survey the legal landscape and present a vision of the profession ten years from now.  RSG surveyed 50 top partners of the leading law firms in the United Kingdom and 50 general counsels, legal directors, and finance directors of some of "the world's most prominent companies and investment banks."

The product of these 100 interviews is a provocative report called Law firm of the 21st century. The report is particularly interesting because it interweaves the perspectives of law firm partners and clients, showing where those perspectives agree and where they diverge from one another. 

On the whole, clients are very concerned about controlling costs and seeking greater value for their money from law firms, and this trend is likely to continue.  Because of these concerns, the law firms of the future are likely to:

  • share risks with their clients with respect to fees and billing,
  • be more transparent and use electronic and value-based billing,
  • take clients' cost-control concerns more seriously, and
  • add value to their services by acting as business consultants as well as providing legal advice.

The report predicts that the billable hour will likely still play an important role in law firms' fees, despite clients' dislike for it and the agreement of many law partners and clients that an hourly rate is "probably not the most advantageous billing approach for clients."

Lawyers' career satisfaction and work-life balance will also be important in the law firm of the future.  Law firms will likely attempt to improve attorney retention by offering alternative career paths for lawyers and responding to the aspirations of "Generation Y."  However, the other major component of attorney retention important to Generation Y--work-life-balance--remains a thorny problem.  Specifically, a debate over whether lawyers really can achieve true work-life balance is likely to continue, for several reasons. 

First, almost half of the partners surveyed believe that excellent client service is incompatible with work-life balance for lawyers. 

Second, there is a major gap in perception between law firm partners and associates concerning work-life balance and attorney satisfaction.  As a group, the partners tend to be fairly satisfied with the quality of their work lives and feel that law firms are good places to work.  However, associates are expressing discontent in growing numbers to news media (even though RSG Consulting did not survey them for this report). 

Third, there is no consensus about how law firms could facilitate work-life balance for their attorneys.  Even an approach like flexible working arrangements does not have anything approaching universal support.  About 40% of both partners and clients believed that flexible working could satisfactorily address work-life balance issues.  However, about 56% of partners and 45% of clients felt that flexible work arrangements would not be a feasible solution, particularly in the transactional areas of law practice.  One client's comment illustrates the competing interests that will continue to make work-life balance a challenge: 

"to be honest, when we’re paying these huge fees, we do expect our lawyers to be there and it’s difficult to accept if they are not there when we need them.”

The report's observations and predictions about clients' concerns over increasing fees, the durability of the billable hour, and lawyers' interest in work-life balance seem consistent with recent media coverage of those issues.

In addition to the points mentioned here, Law firm of the 21st century presents extensive information about the following topics:

  • law firm structure, consolidation, and outside investment;
  • the lawyer-client relationship;
  • the "commoditization" and standardization of legal services;
  • internationalization in the increasingly global marketplace, and
  • the impact of the Legal Services Act in the UK.

David Gray, the Chief Executive of Eversheds, sums up this thorough and fascinating report this way:

"The results are enlightening and sometimes unexpected.  We’d also like to issue [the report] as a challenge to our competitors to really start thinking about what their clients want and not just what they want to give them.  Whatever the issues we face, and whatever the 21st Century law firm becomes, the legal profession is going to continue to be a fascinating place to work."

It would be hard to disagree with Mr. Gray's observations.

By Steve Imparl, guest blogger

Submit Comments to This Post

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83455666169e200e5518b52d78833

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Eversheds Report Discusses Work-life Balance and Other Trends Affecting Law Firms in the 21st Century:

Comments

So partners and associates are miles apart in their assessments. That is a much bigger problem for partners down the road, yet they seem happy to let the problem get worse. Good solution.

"...associates are expressing discontent in growing numbers to news media (even though RSG Consulting did not survey them for this report)."

NOw Why didn't RSG interview them? This is consistent with the trend of ignoring the associates contribution isn't it? Is RSG, like BigLaw partners sticking their head in the sand?

The comments to this entry are closed.

Search This Blog


Sponsors

Resources

ABA Top 100 Blawg

Subscribe By Email


  • Join the over 30,000 attorneys who receive either daily or bimonthly email updates of the latest posts added to the JD Bliss blog. You can unsubscribe at any time and your information will be kept strictly confidential

    Option #1: Daily Updates

    Enter your email address:

    Option #2: Bimonthly Updates

    Enter you email Address:

Questions? Get Answers!