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If you didn’t think the legal market was undergoing a massive upheaval, try to wrap your head around this idea:

In a few years, more than half ($80+ billion) of the world’s high-end legal work will have either lost its profitability or disappeared entirely.

In The $60-Per-Hour Lawyer—Why Dewey Isn’t Ab-Normal, Paul Lippe discusses the legal market’s New Normal, as explained by Jeffrey Carr, the General Counsel of FMC Technologies.

According to Mr. Carr, lawyers do four things:

  • Advocacy – representing the client’s interests in relationship to external parties, most commonly litigation;
  • Counseling – advising the client on actions that favor long-term over short-term interests;
  • Content – providing information about legal issues; and
  • Process – moving information from one place to another to create legal work product, typically either generating or analyzing contracts, or working through discovery-based work in litigation or investigation.

Lippe and his team at Legal OnRamp estimate the high-end legal market (2,000 biggest clients – internal and external spend, and 200 biggest law firms – all revenues) to be about $160 billion worldwide. To make it easy, he roughly estimates each segment as a quarter of that, or $40 billion per segment, “although it’s likely that process work represents a larger share.” He comes to the conclusion that law firms will only be able to charge premium rates for Advocacy and Counseling, although “much of the counseling work has moved in-house because it requires deeper understanding of the client and its people.”

Can someone…anyone…please explain to me why law firms and lawyers aren’t taking radical steps to survive an industry-wide disaster? We often refer to law firms rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic; I wonder if everyone thoroughly understands that analogy. It’s defined as making

“well-meaning but negligible adjustments…that will soon be overtaken by events, or that contribute nothing to the solution of a current problem.”

If more than half the work is going away, is it a stretch to surmise that more than half of the AmLaw 100 and -200 firms will be gone? That more than half the lawyers at those firms will have been laid off? I don’t believe so. And don’t think the future of your firm or your job rests on a coin flip. Either you currently have an untouchable amount of business, or you'll embrace some significant changes that will enable you to procure an untouchable amount of business. That’s the only lifeboat available. Everyone else drowns.

I sincerely hope there are firms and attorneys out there who get the message. For those willing to immediately start making the changes necessary to survive this industry-wide catastrophe, RainmakerVT offers a quick guide:

Mike O'Horo

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