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Law Firms Resist Changing Business Model, Despite Growing Competition

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By William Vogeler, Esq. on July 18, 2017 6:56 AM

Lawyers are not very serious about changing their business model, according to a recent survey of nearly 400 law firms.

Less than one-fourth of the survey respondents said they were seriously considering a change in their legal service delivery model. Nearly two-thirds blamed the reticence on the law firm partners.

The Altman Weil "Law Firms in Transition Survey" says lawyers are not ready to change, despite a competitive pinch from legal tech and legal service providers. Surely, there have to be lawyers somewhere doing something about it?

"Doing Everything I Can"

Only 2.2% of respondents highly agreed that law firms are doing all that they can to "change their legal service delivery model to provide greater value to clients."

The situation is serious enough that law firms need to do something about their traditional practice model. The market demands it.

"These changes are being driven by what is perhaps the most immediate and basic threat that traditional law firms face in 2017 and beyond -- the continuing erosion of demand," the survey says.

The biggest changes, the survey revealed, are happening at the biggest firms. In law firms with more than 250 lawyers, more than 80 percent of the respondents said legal service providers were taking their business.

Law Bots Are Coming

Another threat to the business model is coming from artificial intelligence. While legal tech is taking more work from lawyers, they are slow to adapt.

According to the survey, a mere 7.5% of the law firms said they use AI, with the largest firms scoring just 9.4%. Midsize firms were the most oblivious, barely registering 5.7%.

The survey does not explain why lawyers lag in adapting to technology, but studies suggest it is integral to the profession. Attorneys tend to discourage risk-tasking, and the high cost of adapting new technology can be risky and expensive.

According to another Altman Weil survey in 2009, corporate legal departments then doubted that law firms were serious about changing their legal service delivery models.

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