Focus, Law firm management: A year of living dangerously

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  • To all these people who say business will change because of a paradigm shift - there are only so many ways of doing business. You work for a period of time and you charge for it.

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  • The paradigm shift which is under way was summed up by a large corporation's general counsel at a recent conference in Chicago - ‘the shape of the successful law firm is not a pyramid’. The traditional leveraged model of law firms with large numbers of associates is under attack, the same general counsel commenting that partner: associate ratios of 1:1 delivered better results than 2 or 3:1. Add to the mix the issue that in house lawyers are increasingly undertaking transactional work and only instructing outside lawyers on the discrete difficult bits, and e-billing (which should not make any difference, but in practice does), and the earnings of partners in many a traditional, highly leveraged law firm will have gone west for all time.

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  • The new shape of law firms may well be a cylinder, not a pyramid. Squeezing a pryamid down has huge implications for both lawyers and staff. My Integreon blog post assess potential implications, also drawing on a published interview of Linklaters managing partner Simon Davies addressing the potential of a paradigm shift. How Law Firms Can Survive Transforming from a Pyramid to a Cylinder (http://www.integreon.com/blog/2009/04/how-law-firms-can-survive-transforming-from-a-pyramid-to-a-cylinder.html) discusses this in more detail.

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