Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, begins with its protagonist waking up to find himself transformed into a hideous insect. The novella chronicles his attempt to cope with this vexing transformation, especially as it relates to those close and familiar to him. Could this be the fate of law firms?
The scope of tasks being performed by lawyers—especially those who work in law firms—has narrowed considerably, especially during the new millennium. There are several reasons: (1) technology; (2) economic pressure; (3) globalization; (4) regulatory changes; (5) the realization that lawyers need not perform all tasks incident to a matter; (6) the growth of in-house legal departments; and (6) the proliferation of legal service providers as well as companies that provide products (ranging from software applications to documents). This begs the question: if lawyers are no longer handling all facets of a case as they did for so long—how will that affect law firms? Surely, it will have an economic impact. But the cumulative effect of the above-enumerated market factors is more profound than that: law firms—at least as they have operated for at least the last half century—are subject to even more profound changes including accelerated mergers; strategic alliances; pairing with service providers; and, as some have already experienced, dissolution and/or bankruptcy. That prognosis applies to “traditional model” law firms. The prospects are far brighter for new model firms as well as for new entrants into the marketplace, many of whom will not be “law firms” as we know them but, rather, professional organization groups for whom lawyers are a part of the mix. [Read more…]