Remember the good old days? The days when hourly rates increased year after year, junior associate time could be billed for, and it was considered unprofessional to try to poach another lawyer’s clients? That wasn’t that long ago, in fact. But times have changed.
The market for legal services is flat. Since the Great Recession, there has been fundamental change in the legal landscape. Much like the housing market bubble that precipitated the economic slowdown, the legal marketplace has shifted from a seller’s to a buyer’s market. This has led to downward pressure on fees, demand for creative, alternative billing practices, and greater competition for fewer opportunities. Work has also moved in-house, as corporate law departments have looked for ways to cut costs and have become not only clients, but also competitors, to solo lawyers as well as law firms.
Sensing this shift, non-legal entrepreneurs have stepped in. From overseas document review firms to Silicon Valley technology startups, alternative service providers continue to chip away at work that traditionally was within the exclusive domain of lawyers and law firms. Companies such as Legal Zoom and Rocket Lawyer, which were once seen as novelties, continue to encroach.
As other industries have experienced — from retail to music, software to automotive — the legal industry is experiencing change both more rapid and more profound than most could have predicted as recently as 15 years ago.
This, of course, begs the question: What to do? The easy answer is: Wait and see.
Wait for others to take the plunge in the cold water. See where the ebbs and tides take the market. And only then act, comfortable in the notion that the market’s current is certain.
By then, however, it will be too late. The new market innovation will be industry standard, the early adopters will have moved on and ahead, and those late to jump in will be right back where they started: The muddled middle.
The point is that, in a rapidly changing market such as the legal industry, same is not a strategy. Too often lawyers and law firms observe and benchmark the “zagging” of others in the market, not to “zig”, but to “zag” themselves.
This is a call to act and innovate, not to benchmark, unless the benchmarking is for the purpose of acting in a contrary manner. From branding, to marketing, to business development, there is an urgent need for innovation in the legal industry — and great rewards waiting for those bold enough to break from the pack.
Innovative thinking. Relentless action. There is no other way forward.
To learn more about the urgent need for innovation in the legal industry, check out my new book — One of a Kind: A Proven Path to a Profitable Legal Practice. To learn more about the book, and for a link to purchase, please visit www.oneofakindlawyer.com.