Our latest interview features Arthur Cox managing partner Brian O’Gorman who talks to The Lawyer about the challenges of attracting, retaining talent and convincing future talent that their future lies in private practice, and the impact of agile working on law firms, ahead of his session next month at the Business Leadership Summit in association with Propero.

What is the biggest challenge law firms will be facing in the next 10 years?

Brian O'Gorman
Brian O’Gorman

Technology and talent (the attraction and retention of talent) are the two biggest foreseeable challenges law firms will face in the next 10 years.

The speed at which technology continues to transform the legal services sector is going to accelerate from here; we are only really at the start of the technological revolution in so far as our sector is concerned.

The second big issue revolves around talent. Will law firms continue to attract top graduates, how do we convince them that their future lies in private practice? While partnership prospects may not be as strong as they were back when law firms were growing and expanding at a very fast rate, in all other respects there has never been, in my view, a better time to be a young lawyer. The opportunities within the broader legal services sector and far beyond are many and varied, and pose a real challenge to the traditional law firm model.

I also fear that another global financial crisis is likely in the next 10 years but I would prefer not to dwell on that!

How can law firms best encourage innovation?

Culture and inclusivity.  A culture of openness, not blindly accepting the status quo, and a willingness to challenge accepted wisdom and listen to others. Inclusivity is equally important; innovative ideas are least likely to come from the managing partner and the management group.  Finding ways to include everybody in innovation is the key.

What impact will agile working have on law firms and can it be done?

It can definitely be done and is being done by firms, ours included. The only obvious barrier is cultural; the technology works. I would hope that most firms have moved beyond the cultural barrier at this stage. The vast majority of people will still want to work in an office environment the vast majority of the time. While agile working will create more flexibility for people, a more understanding and flexible culture and a better work/life balance, which is a good thing, an office-free law firm is still a long way off!

Who has been the most influential person in your career?

Former managing partner and chairman of our firm James O’Dwyer. James was the leading corporate lawyer in Ireland through the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s. I worked incredibly closely with James for six years from 1999 (when I returned to Ireland) until 2005 (when James retired) as his senior associate/junior partner on a broad portfolio of major clients and major M&A deals. It was an incredible learning experience at a very important and formative part of my career. Sadly James passed away only a few weeks ago at the all too young age of 71.

Brian O’Gorman is part of the 120+ managing partners, C-level executives and business services leaders gathering on the 25 September 2018 at the Business Leadership Summit in association with Propero to spend a day focusing on defining your law firm strategy in a tech-driven future. For more information on the conference, a copy of the agenda, or to inquire about attending, please contact Nathan Graham on +44(0) 20 7970 4672.