Alternative Practice Models in the New Normal


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The practice of law continues to evolve. Lawyers are no longer limited between choosing to work in Big Law or running a solo storefront practice.

Distributed law firms, corporate secondments, and legal freelancers are all becoming successful options for lawyers seeking a change.

Learn from Nicole Bradick, founder of Custom Counsel and a 2012 ABA "Legal Rebel" and Joshua Lenon, Clio's Lawyer in Residence who will talk more about:

- What types of lawyers excel in alternative models
- How to pick the right model for your practice
- How technology makes it easier to adopt new models

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Alternative Practice Models in the New Normal

  1. 1. Alternative Practice Models in the New Normal Joshua Lenon – Clio Nicole Bradick – Custom Counsel, Potomac Law Group
  2. 2. Agenda •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  Traditional Education & Hiring (5 minutes) Traditional Practice Models (5 minutes) Old Models Fail Employees (5 minutes) Attorneys Seeking Alternatives (5 minutes) Traits of Alternative Models (10 minutes) New Model Categories (10 minutes) Finding the Best Fit for You (10 minutes) Questions (10 minutes)
  3. 3. Instructors Joshua Lenon Nicole Bradick •  Lawyer, admitted in New York •  Lawyer-in-Residence for Clio •  Lawyer, admitted in Maine •  Founder, Custom Counsel •  Director of Business Development, Potomac Law Group
  5. 5. Reading the Law
  6. 6. Law Schools •  First Law School in 1793 •  American Bar Association School Accreditation in 1923 •  Now almost every state requires ABAaccredited education for admission Photo%by%Jessie%Michael%Nix%on%Flickr%under%Crea9ve%Commons%License%
  7. 7. Hiring •  On Campus Interviews –  55% of law schools reported a decrease of 30% or more in the number of firms doing on-campus interviews •  Only 64.4% of 2012 graduates had full-time jobs requiring bar passage. Photo%by%Endemoniada%%on%Flickr%under%Crea9ve%Commons%License%
  9. 9. Partnership •  51% of lawyers practice in partnerships •  14% in firms of 2-5 lawyers •  16% in firms of 101+ lawyers Photo%by%hansntareen%on%Flickr%under%Crea9ve%Commons%License%
  10. 10. Cravath System •  Recruit the “best of the best” –  Required increasing salary numbers •  Training via mentorship •  “Up or out”
  12. 12. Disproportionate Focus on Billable Hours The pressure to maximize billable hours disincentives efficiency and can be harmful to clients. The billable hour can cause particular pressure on parents who often strive for efficiency in order to handle multiple life demands. Photo%by%Earls37a%on%Flickr%under%Crea9ve%Commons%License%
  13. 13. Lack of autonomy and flexibility •  Unreasonable face time requirements and an unwillingness to offer meaningful flexibility can cause undo stress to professionals who seek to be treated like, well, professionals. •  Many firms give lip service to offering flexibility, but too often the deals are highly unfavorable to the working attorney, both financially and practically. Photo%by%Brian%Fuller%on%Flickr%under%Crea9ve%Commons%License%
  14. 14. Competition for Partnerships •  In the typical Big Law “tournament” model, only a few make it to partnership, forcing a competitive environment with their colleagues. Let’s face it, competing unrelentingly with your peers never leads to an enjoyable workplace… •  This only gets worse as it gets harder to become a partner. Recent unfavorable trends include an increase in the time to become partner, longer odds at making it to partner, and the proliferation of the 2tier partnership system. Photo%by%Duncan%Hull%on%Flickr%under%Crea9ve%Commons%License%
  15. 15. Lateral Movement Erodes Camaraderie •  Lateral movement is on the rise in Big Law as firms are trying to keep up their numbers by attracting partners with books of business. This results in hoarding of work and clients and a constant suspicion of colleagues being on the move. Photo%by%darkmaCer%on%Flickr%under%Crea9ve%Commons%License%
  17. 17. Big Firm Escapee •  The Big Firm escapee leaves for a variety of reasons, but generally is a lawyer that enjoys the practice of law but not the big firm environment. Photo%by%Paul%Bica%on%Flickr%under%Crea9ve%Commons%License%
  18. 18. Balance Seeker •  The balance seeker does not want to sacrifice outside interests or commitments to the practice of law and may wish to practice on a flexible schedule. Photo%by%Eileen%McFall%on%Flickr%under%Crea9ve%Commons%License%
  19. 19. Semi-Retired •  Typically a lawyer who rose through the ranks at a big firm, but may be looking to slow down the pace. This may include a lawyer who has taken a buy out post-merger. Photo%by%Theophilos%Papadopoulos%on%Flickr%under%Crea9ve%Commons%License%
  20. 20. Attorney With Outside Interests •  Similar to the balance seeker, but this attorney likely has other entrepreneurial pursuits or career-related passions in addition to the practice of law. Most traditional firms do not take kindly to outside professional distractions, but this type of entrepreneurial spirit is often welcome in a new model firm. Photo%by%misconmike%on%Flickr%under%Crea9ve%Commons%License%
  22. 22. Traits Of Alternative Practice Model
  24. 24. New Model Organizations •  New model law firms •  Secondments •  Legal Process Outsourcers
  26. 26. Initial Consideration The primary thing to ask yourself is: what is it that you don’t like about the traditional firm model? The answer to this question will determine what kind of new model firms you should consider. Consider the following typical complaints about traditional law firm life – which ones apply to you?
  27. 27. What’s the Problem? •  Billable hour pressures? •  Lack of flexibility? •  Overly competitive environment? •  Unfriendly to women/ minorities? •  Lack of mentorship/ sponsorship/training? •  Working directly with clients? •  Doing too much “second chair” work? •  Not being able to work directly with clients? •  Too much required nonbillable administrative time? •  Business development pressures? •  Too much firm politicking? •  The actual practice of law?
  28. 28. Dislike Direct Client Work? If your answers indicate more of a lack of interest in providing direct legal services to clients, consider the variety of new model businesses focused on providing fill-in or freelance work for other attorneys or law firms. Focus on high-end legal staffing companies.
  29. 29. Dislike the Law Firm Environment? If your responses tend more toward a dissatisfaction with the traditional firm environment, then there are a wealth of new firms that aim to cure what ails you. Focus on new model law firms, but beware that they vary widely, so you’ll need to ask some careful questions to find the right fit.
  30. 30. New Model Law Firms & Technology •  Some offer technology-heavy case management and collaboration tools that you might enjoy or not, depending on your preferences. •  If you are not great with new technology, inquire about training.
  31. 31. New Model Law Firms and Workflow •  Some new model firms may require you to bring in business, while others will feed you business. •  Inquire carefully if you do not have your own book of business but need full-time work – make sure the firm can keep your plate full.
  32. 32. New Model Law Firms – Brick & Mortar v. Virtual •  Some offer a traditional brick and mortar law firm setting and others are virtual. Your personality and preferences will dictate which will work for you.
  33. 33. New Model Law Firms and New Attorney Training •  If you are a newer attorney, many new model firms are not yet organized in a way to provide training and mentorship. Some do, and you will need to be careful to seek out the ones who have training built into their model.
  34. 34. New Model Firms and Intra-firm Talent and Collaboration •  If your type of work often requires a team to work on your matters, be sure you understand what other attorneys are available and how the firm fosters team collaboration.
  35. 35. Dislike Practicing Law? The final inquiry, whether you simply do not enjoy practicing law, is certainly one worth considering. Some attorneys find that they just don’t enjoy their chosen profession, having nothing to do with their firm or work situation.
  36. 36. Opportunities Abound For those who are entrepreneurial in nature, consider that the proliferation of new model businesses provides ample opportunity to apply your knowledge of the law and the business of law in a wide variety of ways, from running your own business, to business development, IT-related positions, etc.
  37. 37. Thank You @Joshualenon