The Future Law Office: The New Realities of Today’s Business Environment

In a recent Forbes article titled "How to Stay One Step Ahead of the Competition," author Paul B. Brown stated an obvious yet fundamental strategy required to remain successful in business today:

“If you are going to satisfy a market need, you have to listen to the market and give people what they want ... But that means you have to evolve if customers tell you to, and that can be difficult.”

This strategy has long held true in the legal profession. Research conducted for Robert Half Legal's annual Future Law Office report found that market demands -- from mobility to changing demographics to globalization -- are continuing to influence the legal field and reshape its workplace.

What are clients demanding in today’s dynamic business environment in North America? How are law firms and legal departments responding to remain competitive? Our Future Law Office research revealed two key trends that are shaping today’s realities in the legal marketplace:

  1. New customer service models: Law firms are becoming laser-focused on providing innovative solutions, not only to meet the needs of cost-conscious corporate clients but also to gain an advantage in today’s competitive business environment.
  2. A changing workforce: To work more efficiently and more effectively partner with each other, it is becoming increasingly important for law firms and corporate legal departments to build teams that are diverse, specialized and mobile.

A number of factors are impacting the law office of tomorrow:

  • Clients, especially corporate legal departments, are budgeting conservatively and looking to outside counsel to provide flexible alternative fee arrangements, transparency about cost and “value-added” services.
  • Facing stiffer competition for commercial business, law firms are focusing on improving client relationships and increasing efficiencies, including how they staff projects.
  • Globalization is driving the need for legal counsel who understand the potential impact of local laws, cultural factors and events on their clients’ business operations in other countries.
  • Law firms are adapting corporate hiring and staff development practices that focus on candidates’ and employees’ long-term leadership potential.
  • Business acumen, a collaborative mindset, expertise in high-demand specialties, and the ability to leverage technologies to better serve clients are just a few of the skills legal professionals will need to succeed in the future law office.
  • Collaboration and idea sharing are increasing within legal teams due to the growing use of mobile and social media tools -- and the influence of Generation Y employees.
  • The responsibilities of junior associates, paralegals and legal assistants are expanding as they’re assigned tasks, for the sake of efficiency, that lawyers may have handled in the past.

Learn more in Robert Half Legal’s complimentary Future Law Office report, “The Evolving Legal Profession and Emerging Workforce of Tomorrow.”

This is the first in a series of articles on current trends and the evolution of the legal profession. Check back in the weeks ahead for more on current trends that are impacting the field of law and how forward-thinking legal organizations are responding to remain competitive.