The future is still blurred

Interesting article from June 2, 2009 in Lawyers Weekly from Australia, “The Future in Focus.”

Walt Whitman once wrote “The future is no more uncertain than the present.” That’s what I continue to think as I read the seismic changes taking place, right now, within the legal profession, as this article discusses.

Sixty percent of new graduates into the profession are women; rates of depression are soaring; career satisfaction is low; many lawyers feel like skilled surgeons assigned to pierce ears; and the baby boomers will be retiring in droves over the next decade from firms that don’t have succession plans in place.

Think only the future is uncertain?

One insightful attorney, Steve Sampson, national general manager at Hunt & Hunt, thinks the billable hour has to be included in the threats to the future of law:

I think the billable hour fronts up somewhere in this discussion. I think the whole focus on productivity, efficiency, profit, partner earnings just drove mistrust into what were otherwise strong trusting advisor relationships. …Every time you talk to a client, they are wondering how many units, how many hours, you’ll charge


Howard Harrison, managing partner at Carol O’Dea predicts two sectors of law emerging:

One will be the valued advisor—high end, really charge what you want because that’s what your clients should pay. At another level there is a huge move to fixed pricing, certainly—caps, outcomes, gear, remuneration.

I’m not so sure this is new. Anyone who has studied Bill Cobb’s beloved value curve knows that some legal work is much more valuable than others. The insanity is to have one price for all work, regardless of the value.

In any event, the future of the legal profession is a fascinating discussion. I sometimes wonder if firms are just sitting around waiting for things to happen.

I think it was Peter Drucker who said “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”


  1. john chisholm says:

    Ron I read the whole article which arose out of a “get together” of leaders of some respected law firms around Australia on, as you reported, the future of the law and some of the challenges ahead.

    An admirable idea and I am sure the discussions that took place worthwhile for some.BUT you hit the nail on the head-there is an awful lot of discussion happening (always has been always will be)and most of the ideas put forward or hypothesized about are hardly new. With due repect to the attendees most of whom I know and have a high respect for and some of whom are actually at the cutting edge in some ideas,if you actually asked them what they or their firms are DOING about some of these challenges as against what they might be contemplating doing the answers regrettably for many may be very different.

    Drucker is correct in that the best way to predict the future is to create it-regrettably as a profession not just in Australia but world wide we far too often wait too long, hypothesise and analyse far too much, and then usually wait again to see what someone else has come up with before we are prepared to give it a go (we are after all trained to look for precedents not necessarily set them-especially if some precieved “risk” involved.)

    Agreed thinking is necessary and important but just thinking about taking a step-even a small step- wont move my legs unless I move my body too.

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