In Henry VI, Dick the Butcher wanted to disturb law and order so that he could become king. Shakespeare gave him the words, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” Shakespeare meant it as a compliment. As maligned as is the legal profession, attorneys and judges maintain justice in a perfect world.
The economic challenging times since 2008 have perhaps done more to eliminate the legal profession than Shakespeare might have imagined. The upside is that smaller firms are standing their ground and providing high-quality legal representation. Smaller firms can often offer corporations technical expertise at a lower cost.
Technology has given smaller firms high-powered weapons to meet the demands and challenges of changing times and laws. Law firms that once occupied high-priced real estate are being pressed into lowering overhead, and corporations are now more interested in results than they are office décor.
Technology has made it possible to scan through millions of pages of discovery documents to identify what is most pertinent through a process of predictive computer coding. Smaller firms need to be more efficient and create greater value for corporate clients in order to overcome the old perception that a fancy office in a prime location means that the legal services will be top-notch.
There has never been as much change in the way lawyers deliver their legal services than in the past several decades that I have been in the field of law in several jurisdictions. Corporations have not only moved out of the big cities, but they also have left their big-city law firms behind. What is important now are the services, and not location from which they are rendered. What is important are promptness and performance, and not pomp and circumstance.
The good news is that the small- to medium-size law firms are here to stay.
Frank J. Morelli, Wellington