In keeping with the best traditions of almanac writers at this time of the year, here are some puzzles in need of predictions:
In the 1980s The American Lawyer predicted that the third millennium would dawn with 20 law firms left in the frame as world leaders. That was clearly a most prescient piece of journalism but with (technically) one year to go, will it be proved correct?
Let’s pray for a juicy recession. That will sort out the men from the boys and may just establish whether lockstep compensation is the way forward.
When was the last time your transactional lawyer picked up a law report?
Has email killed the fax room as a profit centre and what can be done to replace it?
In this era of cult obsession, is it time to rekindle the cult of lawyer as personality? Or is that just too ridiculous?
Eschewing the fortunes that are to be earned in banks, we are now told that the best and brightest of the junior talent pool wish to become dot.com tycoons. The bankers therefore steal from the lawyers. Where does that leave us?
When will we stop predicting that the accountants will never succeed in the practice of law and just get on with competing for business?
And speaking of the accountants, let’s take up the multidisciplinary challenge. Apart from some arcane concept of duty what makes us so special? Legal services and a pizza? Why not?
A reassessment of our obligations to pro bono work would not go amiss either.
If we’re so smart why do we work so hard? It would be churlish (and arrogant) to suggest that this is an underpaid profession. But the hours required to succeed, when compared with other professions, are in danger of becoming imbalanced.
Which practice area will absorb the Y2K experts?
Is it just me or do people not have careers any more?
Will there be more legal directories than law firms by 2001?
In what year in the new millennium will the professions become completely fused? And will anyone outside the professions care?
How creative can your firm’s senior partner get with your restrictive covenants?
Let’s reintroduce the concept of lawyer as Renaissance Man and not just that sad guy in the corner with the pencil.
When will we stop charging by the hour? Virtually nobody else does it, clients suspect that it leads to churning and it creates an inherent conflict in the way we charge. Let’s get a sense of proportion about our worth, for better or for worse.
When the history of the millennium is written you won’t see too many bankers or accountants as seminal historical figures. On the other hand, why are most seriously famous people ex-lawyers?
When will we get some client conflict rules which we can all explain and (less likely) understand?
And finally, one historical question. During exactly what year in the last millennium did the concept of lunch disappear?