Competition for corporate legal work is keen. Law firms vie with each other for a shrinking segment of outsourced legal work. Corporate legal departments and a growing array of well capitalized, tech and process savvy service providers now account for an almost 50% of legal spend. It’s not surprising, then, that law firms are stepping up investment in marketing and business development activities. Will this narrow the growing delta between rising demand for legal services and declining call for law firms? Short answer: not unless law firms address the myriad of reasons for client dissatisfaction as well as differentiate themselves.
The legal profession has a dismal record on diversity—especially large law firms. Between 2007 and 2015, there was a decline in the number of black attorneys in big firms. And, per the same study conducted by the Minority Corporate Counsel Association and Vault.com, the number of Asian-American lawyers receiving promotions in 2014 was less than in 2007.
There are three categories of intelligence in the legal vertical–intellectual, emotional, and artificial. Many lawyers have elevated IQ’s, though relatively few seem to possess high EQ’s– commonly called ‘people skills’. Only the best lawyers—trusted advisers– have both. Artificial intelligence (AI), a recent entrant in the legal vertical, scores high on IQ, but the jury is still out on whether machines can develop comparable EQ.
The legal industry is known for adherence to precedent, not innovation. While precedent remains a guiding principle in the practice of law, innovation is transforming the models, methods, and players involved in the buy/sell process of legal services. Technology, process, access to institutional capital, re-reregulation, client demand for enhanced value, and changes in other professional service industry delivery models—notably medicine and accounting– are legal innovation’s principal drivers.
It will be a glum holiday season for the lawyers and staff at King & Wood Mallesons (KWM). The multinational law firm giant, a single-branded legal network anchored by British, Australian, and Chinese member firms, is dissolving. The firm website describes the 2,700 lawyer amalgam as ‘the global elite firm of the next century.’ Its motto, ‘The Power of Together,’ is cruelly ironic—especially for many soon to be out of a job.