Not too long ago, most commercial legal practice was something carried out between a narrowly defined set of players: corporations (or other types of organizations), and the law firms they hired to do legal work.
Today, the law firm industry is under significant pressure, but it’s not because there is any less legal work to go around. It’s because corporate General Counsels have been dealt a stronger hand and have more cards to play. If you look at the industry from the GCs’ point of view, it’s an embarrassment of riches. In addition to law firms, GCs can choose to turn over legal work to their own in-house teams; staff legal projects with on-demand legal professionals from a staffing service; partner with alternative types of providers such as Axiom or other Legal Process Outsourcers (LPOs); leverage better in-house technology or partner with outside tech services from newer legal startups; or, increasingly, turn to other existing partners such as the Big Four accounting and audit firms.
This is a different and more diverse legal ecosystem than we had just a few years ago, and it’s not likely to become any less complicated or dynamic in the years to come.
Dozens of new companies are targeting the legal industry with new products and services related to a wide range of technologies and applications, including:
- Predictive analytics
- Legal marketplaces and lawyer networks
- New staffing models
- Legal research
- Online dispute resolution
- Document automation
- Process management
- Virtual law practice
- Firm, practice and matter management
- Legal billing
Much of the work of the Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute center on helping law firms build and maintain their leadership and remain competitive in areas such as business development, leadership, compensation, workflow, talent development, technology deployment, fees and billing, and the like.
My contributions, however, will focus on changes in this wider legal ecosystem and their implications for traditional law firms. I’ll be documenting the growth of new players, tracking investments in the legal industry, measuring the shifts in revenue and legal spend in the new ecosystem, and identifying the high-impact technologies that present both challenges and great opportunities for today’s legal services industries.
Despite the challenges, this is a great time to be in the industry for strategic, tech-savvy, creative, and flexible legal executives.