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Lawyers Are 'Chronically Under-Performing,' Survey Finds

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By William Vogeler, Esq. on May 26, 2017 12:58 PM

If you're sitting at your desk waiting for the phone to ring, that's usually not a good sign.

It could be that you are not busy enough, and you know what that means. A new survey of law firm leaders confirms what you may have feared.

According to legal consultancy Altman Weil, 75 percent of nearly 400 respondents at large firms said their lawyers are not busy enough. Smaller firms reported similar numbers.

Most said that probably means more lay-offs, pay-cuts, and alternative hiring.

Relax, Associates

The survey lays most of the blame on the partners, and especially on non-equity partners. Associates, by and large, are plenty busy.

The firms reported that about 52.4% of their equity partners are not "sufficiently busy," and 60.5% of the non-equity partners. Associates, respondents said, are sufficiently busy 74.7%.

The phenomenon is more apparent at firms with more than 250 lawyers, where 67.7% of the equity partners are not sufficiently busy and 76.7% percent of the non-equity partners are under-performing.

It boils down to a bottom line: too many lawyers and not enough return. "The most obvious solution to the overcapacity problem is to cut under-performers," the report said.

Alternatives to "Overcapacity"

Nearly 60 percent of the firm leaders said that overcapacity overall is hurting profitability. The problem is more pronounced among larger firms, according to TaxProfBlog.

Most of the firms have dealt with declining profits by removing under-performers, reducing compensation and hiring part-time or contract lawyers.

About 70% of the respondents said part-time lawyers and contract lawyers will be a permanent trend going forward. At the same time, nearly 90% said fewer support staff will be a permanent trend in the future.

Meanwhile, another report says law firms made more money last quarter than any since 2008. Citi Private Bank Law Firm Group said the demand for legal services grew 1.8%.

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