Ahead of The Lawyer‘s annual Managing Partners’ Dinner taking place on the 22 May (ask for more information here) we asked a number of managing partners in attendance to share their biggest prediction for the future of the legal industry.
Reed Smith EME managing partner Tamara Box: The legal landscape is changing even as we speak, and for those of us with a bit of the “adventurer” in our blood, it is very exciting. I think the integration of millennials into our firms will be the catalyst for a whole new type of lawyering, one that is not only more egalitarian but more relationship – and lifestyle -oriented. Millennials expect to work in a fully inclusive environment, where their opinions and ideas are respected equally with those of more senior partners and associates. Because many of the younger generation are not motivated by the traditional partner track that has guided their predecessors, innovative ways of working – and rewarding that work – will need to be devised. Dare I say it, perhaps signalling the end of the billable hour!
Tomorrow’s clients will expect their attorneys to be business partners who are as equally savvy with commercial decisions as they are with legal ones, so that they can contribute to the strategy and success of their enterprises. This change in positioning means that clients and law firms will value creative thinking and empathy over analysis and long hours, which may eventually mean teaching a different curriculum in law schools, one that focuses on originality more than fact-based research, teamwork more than transaction.
TLT managing partner David Pester: Lawyers will no longer dominate in the delivery of legal services. Law firms will need to be multi-disciplinary – and not in the accounting sense where they broaden their services beyond the law. They will need to be multi-disciplinary in terms of the range of expertise required to deliver effective legal advice to clients. Whether it is project managers, data analysts or tech developers, lawyers will need to be true consultants; working alongside other professionals and collaborating with other organisations to design and deliver legal solutions.
Winston & Strawn London managing partner Peter Crowther: Bifurcation at the top end of the legal market. It is clear that certain firms continue to outpace the market while others are stagnating or declining. I expect this trend to continue.
Paul Hastings London office chair Ronan O’Sullivan: Change will continue to permeate every aspect of the industry and the market in London. Those firms that continue to absorb and embrace that change, and find paths to sustainable and stable growth through that change, will ultimately achieve long-term success.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer managing partner Stephan Eilers: That AI and automation will increase demand for the very best lawyers. As more process work is automated and software tools creep up the legal value chain, the ability to foster deep relationships with clients and exercise highly nuanced judgment will become more highly prized. In the future there will be fewer, very high quality, law firms peopled by practitioners with deep expertise and empathy who act as true business partners to their clients.
DLA Piper global co-chief executive officer and managing partner Simon Levine: The firms that are best able to flex and adapt to change with a joined-up approach across geographies and commercial practices, while also utilising the most appropriate technologies, will carve out a significant advantage. While the industry has woken up to investment in areas such as project management, strategic resourcing and knowledge utilisation, there is significant room for improvement in service delivery through emerging technologies and innovation.
Technologies such as AI, data analytics and blockchain offer the prospect of re-imagining what it means to optimise the quality, consistency and efficiency of services to our clients over the coming months and years. The firms that are genuinely integrated across disciplines and borders while embracing the technologies that align to clients’ evolving needs will thrive. And those that aren’t aligned, will simply languish.
Osborne Clarke managing partner Ray Berg: We’ve yet to see the limits of how the digital revolution will impact all businesses. In the legal industry specifically, I don’t think technology will ever replace roles entirely, but it is likely to evolve the types of work we do. So understanding the underlying technology, how it impacts on business models and spotting commercial opportunities is going to be important in the future as lawyers will need to use these technologies in order to stay relevant and better deliver services to their clients.
We are responding to this challenge with our existing people by developing a technology awareness programme to help bring up our lawyers (both associates and Partners alike) up to speed in the understanding of these new fields of technology and in the use of the tools that are being developed with them.
Travers Smith managing partner David Patient: That’s a very broad question, but changes in the way we provide our services to clients, and the types of services they require, are gathering pace. Regardless, I firmly believe in the continued success, both short and long term, of law firms who invest for the future, have a strong culture, a clear sense of purpose, and a sharpness of focus on quality, expertise and service.
DAC Beachcroft managing partner David Pollitt: I think that consolidation will increase significantly over the next couple of years. This will come in different forms: first, there will be defensive mergers where firms are struggling on their own. Secondly, I think that London based firms will see the strategic advantage that regional firms possess and will try to benefit from that. Finally, I think the US firms will continue to push into the UK market and we should not rule out, in the next year or so, a merger between a top US firm and one of the hitherto untouchable Magic Circle firms.
Eversheds Sutherland international managing partner Keith Froud: Consolidation – it has to continue.
For more information on the Managing Partners Dinner please contact The Lawyer events team at firstname.lastname@example.org.