Have we recently shot from stagnation in the legal industry to hyper-change? No

Mehul Patel, the general manager of Axiom, published an article in the National Law Journal (April 28, 2008). He argues that pressures on law firms will force them to change, with two of those pressures being offshoring and “new-model firms.” Summing up his piece, he makes a dramatic statement: “After decades of stasis, the legal industry is changing quickly.”

I question both ends of that claim. Over the past two decades, three big changes in the field are the dramatic increase in size and quality of law departments, the introduction of technology into all aspects of their operations, and the acceptance of business-management concepts such as budgets, transparency, competitive bidding, and procurement. Stasis is not the word for such fundamental changes.

As to the rapid pace of change Patel asserts is happening right now, I don’t see that either. There have always been front runners with new ideas to change the relationships between law firms and law departments. The drumbeat of innovation and new application has included task-based billing, matter management systems, convergence, partnering, competitive bids, fixed fees, single-firm selections, e-billing – to name a few new management steps in the past few years, evidencing a constant pace of change.

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