The current uncertainty which seems to be playing out in our political and economic sphere has reverberations throughout the legal community as law firms try to gain a secure foothold while being buffeted by strong headwinds of change.
Addressing this tumultuous environment, the upcoming 22nd Annual Law Firm Leaders Forum features distinguished faculty from both the public and private sectors for two days of earnest inquiry around these and other critical themes. Held on October 12 & 13 at the Harvard Club of New York City, the Forum will allow attendees to actively engage with one another and broaden the overall discussion with colleagues from across the nation.
The Forum will be co-chaired by Ralph Baxter, Senior Advisor at Thomson Reuters Legal; Lucy Endel Bassli, Assistant General Counsel of Legal & Corporate Affairs at Microsoft Corporation; and Elizabeth Temple, Chair & Chief Executive Officer at Womble Bond Dickinson.
The tone of change and how law firms can best adapt to it will be apparent from the opening panel in which Aric Press, longtime editor in chief of The American Lawyer magazine and now law firm advisor, will deliver an Annual Report on Developments in the Business & Profession of Law — a much-anticipated regular feature of the Forum. Joining Press will be Andrew M. Perlman, Dean of Suffolk University Law School and Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) Center for Innovation, and the three Forum co-chairs.
That session will segue into a New Look at Law Firm Financial Performance, in which Baxter and Press will be joined by Bruce MacEwen, publisher of the Adam Smith, Esq. blog and highly-regarded legal industry consultant. MacEwen will present a new perspective on law firm financial performance metrics, suggesting that measures such as “profits” per equity partner (PPEP) may not give the whole story about the legal industry or individual law firms. Joining MacEwen will be several law firm financial data experts, including David Barnard, Founding Partner at Blaqwell, Inc.; David Lat, Founder & Managing Editor at Above the Law; and Gretta Rusanow, Head of Advisory Services for the Law Firm Group at Citi Private Bank.
Another early panel examines one of the more game-changing entities to shake-up the legal community in recent years — the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) — which consists of more than 400 of America’s largest companies. CLOC has risen to a leadership role in the industry as the group attempts to urge communication and cooperation among all legal service providers and users. In this highly-anticipated session, CLOC’s founding members will discuss the group’s mission and how it works with its members, law firms and legal tech companies, among others. The CLOC panel will include Connie Brenton, Chief of Staff & Director of Legal Operations at NetApp Inc.; Christine Coats, Vice President of Legal Operations at Oracle Corporation; and Jeff Franke, Chief of Staff to the General Counsel & Senior Director of Global Legal Operations at Yahoo, Inc. The panel will be moderated by Forum Co-Chair Baxter.
Later, the nation’s turbulent political atmosphere will be the subject of the Forum’s Keynote Luncheon, featuring two prominent political voices, Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, the creators, executive producers and co-hosts of The Circus; NBC News and MSNBC analysts and co-authors of Double Down: Game Change 2012. The pair will be joined by Andy Sullivan, US Domestic Policy Correspondent for Reuters News, to discuss the volatile state of American politics, from alleged Russian collusion in the recent election to US healthcare reform.
Over the two-day Forum, several other panels will address issues of immense importance to the current legal ecosystem, such as Millennials (poised to constitute the majority of lawyers at AmLaw 200 law firms by the year 2022) and diversity and inclusion (the subject of a Friday morning panel which asks, Why Are Women Not in More Law Firm Leadership Roles?)
The Forum’s penultimate panel takes a serious look into the responsibility of law firms to contribute to society and the rule of law. Hosted by Co-Chair Baxter, the panel will take up the contention that law firm leaders and legal personnel have a fundamental responsibility to contribute positively to society. Even as the legal marketplace becomes more competitive and profit-driven, this vital responsibility is at the core of what it means to be a true legal professional. This panel, featuring some of the most prominent voices in the industry, will discuss whether the legal industry is holding true to this responsibility and what it can do better going forward.
Finally and in keeping with the main theme, this year’s program concludes with a highlight conversation around how to practice law in an uncertain and unpredictable Washington, D.C.