News of the legal market is all over the map.
In April, The American Lawyer reported the Am Law 100 was amidst a modest rebound in both revenue and profit.
“So as long as the global economy continues to do well, BigLaw will continue to do well,” said the publication’s editor-in-chief during an interview with Bloomberg.
Two months later, several large law firms announced cuts, which some analysts say will continue.
“Now, the question I’ve been asked multiple times in the past 24 hours? ‘Is Weil the last?’” wrote the legal economics consultancy Adam Smith, Esq in response to the Weil news.
“Not a chance.”
Not All Doom and Gloom
While profits and layoffs alike call attention above the fold, there’s been a stir of new directions underneath it in the form of new roles.
So the real question is whether firms will invest in the development of real LPM specialists who have sufficient authority to establish best practices which become the firm’s standard procedures.
Sure LPM isn’t a new concept, as consultants on the leading edge will be quick to point out, but we’re beginning to get a sense we are on the verge of acceptance by a broader market – a tipping point.
Ms. O’Grady has pointed to other emerging roles as well. In an analysis of a separate ALM report, she underscores the emergence of pricing professionals.
It is rare that we get to trace the development of a new niche profession in law firm management from its inception. The report does not focus on how firms are actually setting the prices. It is a peek at a “work in progress.” There is no wide consensus on how to define the functions of the pricing professional or where the function should reside in the law firm. But we rarely see the emergence of a completely new role which is both so widespread and about which there is so little consensus.
Other Voices for New Legal Professions
David Hobbie, an attorney and litigation knowledge manager, wrote a piece for International Legal Technology Association’s (ILTA) Peer-to-Peer magazine. In an article titled, New Professions Materialize for JDs, he outlines four emerging managerial roles for attorneys:
- The Legal Knowledge Manager – Lawyer + Librarian
- The Practice Manager – Lawyer + Project Manager
- The Staffing Manager – Lawyer + Counselor
- The Pricing Manager – Lawyer + Financial Analyst
Will New Roles Lead to New Growth
Altman Weil’s 2012 Law Firms in Transition study found that lateral hires were by far the dominant growth strategy for 2012. Some 92 percent of respondents cited lateral hires, while group acquisitions were a distant second with about 68 percent. Acquiring firms, opening up new offices and other major business moves all trailed, which leaves the question, will new roles lead new thinking and ultimately to new growth?
Your turn – what do you think? Have you spotted a new or emerging job in law firms? Will new roles with sharp minds dedicated to thinking about growth or efficiencies help?
Photo credit: Flickr
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