Interim Lawyers, Paralegals and The Future of Law Firms
Since the Global Financial Crisis took hold, an increasingly competitive market has meant that there has been a substantial shift of power, whereby the clients of law firms have found themselves in a position to exert more influence over the cost and delivery of legal services.
In our recent survey of general counsel in major corporates and banks, some very prominent themes emerged in terms of expectations of their law firms:
- New business / fee models;
- Increased commoditisation / standardisation of straightforward transactions;
- More fluid resourcing
In essence, they want better value for money.
Thus there is significant pressure on law firms to operate more efficiently and profitably, whilst maintaining a high quality output. The challenge is of course to identify exactly how to achieve this.
There is an argument that the law firm business model is out-dated. Occasional outsourcing and relocation of services is simply insufficient and instead, wholesale re-engineering is called for in order to realign supply with demand. Some firms have gone through extensive process-mapping exercises to this end.
At the very least, we will see more disaggregation of work, whereby elements are more routinely handled by the right people at the right level. In other words, lawyers only do the work that they are trained to do and other elements of transactions and disputes will be passed to less qualified staff.
Law firms will make much greater use of lawyers and paralegals on an interim basis. Not only will this ensure that headcount more closely matches workflow, but also that specific skills are not going to waste and are drafted in only when needed.
Interestingly, the editorial comment in PWC’s 2013 Law Firms’ Survey sates, “The most agile firms are anticipating change and adapting their firms to meet changing markets. The medium term future of firms who don’t adapt cannot be assured”.