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.”