The latest version of Altman Weil’s annual Law Firms in Transition report is a little depressing. AW launched this survey in 2009 as the nation, and the legal profession, were reeling from a deep recession. The 2020 version, which launched in March, reflects the moments right before coronavirus struck, when firms were doing well. Just a few months later, the future looks bleak for many. But maybe, just maybe, this time will be different and the severity of the situation will spawn the depth of change 2009 failed to deliver. “In an environment of slow demand growth, extreme price sensitivity and intense competition [in 2009], it was obvious that law firms needed to deliberately improve on their approaches to pricing, staffing, technology deployment, process efficiency, profitability analysis, practice leadership and lawyer accountability to meet the external demands of a more challenging marketplace and the internal demands for income security and viable career paths,” says the 2020 survey. “Did law firms adapt and transition as needed to achieve lasting competitive advantages? Some did while most did not—at least not in full. This year’s survey highlights the persistent disconnect between what firm leaders agree they should have done during the intervening years and what they actually accomplished. The survey findings point to the many opportunities still available to firms that choose to pursue them.” You can get the free Executive Summary here and read for yourself why the promise of lasting change may, once again, remain unfulfilled.
Published July 3, 2020.