Ahead of the Curve (September - 1)

with ALA's Professional Development Advisory Committee


If you are receiving "Ahead of the Curve" then you are an ALA leader with board, regional, chapter or conference planning responsibilities, or a designated ALA employee. The Professional Development Advisory Committee’s (PDAC) purpose in providing you this communication is to further its goal of periodically sharing topical information regarding the legal industry. Our hope is that one or more of the updates will provide a spark of insight to assist with your work on behalf of ALA as well as within your firm or legal department.

Client Retention

Legal Chiefs Address Law Firms' 'New Normal' at ILTACON

"Law firms are going through a massive shift and, must to adjust their cultures and behaviors and align their products and services with the needs of general counsel". Read more.

Resource: Erin E. Harrison, Legaltech News

Client Leakage

"The biggest expense for a water utility is leakage. Water seeps out of the connections and valves consuming all the energy and labor costs along the way until disappearing into the ground. The same can be said for law firms and their clients." Read more.

Resource: BTI Consulting Group

Large Law Edges Out Mid-size Firms for New Work

"Maybe it's not just about the rates" ... Read more.

Resource: BTI Consulting Group


Many Black Lawyers Navigate a Rocky, Lonely Road to Partner

"Many black lawyers navigate a rocky, lonely road to partner." This article discusses some of the internal reasons and pressures from clients on the issue. Read more.

Resource: Elizabeth Olson, New York Times


What are the Right Metrics for Law Firm Success?

"How should law firms be measured, and why is Profit-Per-Partner (PPP) still the standard by which law firms are measured?" Read more.

Resource: Mark Cohen, Bloomberg BNA

Ethics Tip Beware of would-be “Clients” Bearing Bogus Gifts

"Last month’s column, Red Flags and White Whales: Beware of Problem Clients warned about problem clients, who often wind up not paying their legal bills, or costing you more in the long run than you gain in legal fees. This month we undertake a situation that is potentially much worse for the lawyer - the phantom client who by means of a fraudulent check scheme can end up bilking vast sums from the lawyer’s client trust account." Read more.

Resource: Susan Michmerhuizen, American Bar Association

Future Focus

Designing the Future Law Firm, Part 1

More of a metaphysical question than a physical question. This article discusses the structure of law firms. Read more.

Resource: Bruce MacEwen, Thomson Reuters


Why Most Organizations Are Not Ready For The Future of Work

Marcus Buckingham, author of First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently and StandOut is interviewed by Jacob Morgan, host of The Future of Work Podcast. Marcus indicates "we still measure things in very antiquated ways, particularly around performance management and talent management. Marcus shares the four key questions he believes organizations need to ask regarding evaluating performance." Listen to the podcast here.

Resource: The Future of Work Podcast

Companies re-imagine the annual performance review

"With a who's-who of corporate HR chieftains in the crowd, from Disney to Cigna to Bank of America, a conga line of speakers called for the overthrow of an American workplace institution: the time-tested and usually dreaded annual performance evaluation". Read more.

Resource: Patrick May, San Jose Mercury News Business

Gazing at Nature Makes You More Productive

Does a green microbreak during your workday make a difference in productivity? Read more.

Resource: Nicole Torres, Harvard Business Review

Law Firms’ Grueling Hours Are Turning Defectors into Competitors...

"In this latest flurry of debate about working long hours, some have intimated that overwork is inevitable in highly competitive industries such as law, finance, and high tech. But that’s just not true". Read more.

Resource: Joan C. Williams, Harvard Business Review

Office 'Darwinism': Will Your Company Follow Amazon’s Lead?

The culture of a competitive workplace and the increasing difficulty of attaining a satisfying work-life balance is discussed in this interview with Professor Robert Sutton of Stanford University. Read more.

Resource: Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson, Here & Now


Law Librarians Seeking Business Development Role at Law Firms

"Bloomberg Law's survey found that law librarians are seeking a closer, more symbiotic relationship with marketing and business development staff. " Read more.

Resource: Zach Warren, Legaltech News


Salt Lake City firm Open Legal Services operates as a nonprofit, keeping hourly rates low

"The words nonprofit and law firm don’t usually go together. But Salt Lake City attorneys "Shantelle Argyle and A. Daniel Spencer saw no reason why they shouldn’t. Read more.

Resource: Victor Li, Legal Rebels

Lawyers need to move beyond ‘access to justice’ to close the legal services gap

"Lawyers need to move beyond “access to justice” to close the legal services gap." Read more.

Resource: Paul Lippe and Patrick Lamb, The New Normal

Tough Talk On Paralegals

Lee Rosen on Law Practicing Marketing, Management and Technology. Read more.

Resource: Lee Rosen, DivorceDiscourse.com


Spate of Succession Plans at Firms Driven by Age, Innovation

".... more than 50 percent of the average firm's client base is originated by attorneys 60 years old or older, making succession planning around client transition equally as important to top-level leadership transition." Read more.

Resource: Gina Passarella, The Legal Intelligencer


The Future of AI and White Collar Automation for Legal Services

The advent of AI-based technology comes with a relatively clear set of costs and opportunities, along with a few that are not so readily apparent. Read more.

Resource: John K. Waters, Legaltech News

9 Tech Startups Disrupting the Legal Industry

"Legal technology may finally be enjoying its moment in the sun. Some observers say that the industry is just at the beginning of the boom and predict that in the next five years, DIY, marketplace economics and process-based tools will force all attorneys to be more accessible and affordable". Read more.

Resource: Jerry Nelson, Tech.co

New Outlook Add-Ins Arrive and More Are on the Way

"Outlook add-ins can be contentious... IT staff despise the resources they demand, but users want the functionality. This article describes several new add-ins, and more to come". Read more.

Resource: Paul Thurrott, Thurrott News & Analysis for Tech Enthusiasts

The Future of Law Firm Communication: Is Email on the Way Out?

"While convenient, email seems to be increasingly a distraction in law firms and most other businesses. Furthermore, email chains about important cases sit in our inboxes next to spam, family interactions, personal information, and more spam. Due to the sheer volume of emails received, lawyers and firm staff often waste time navigating them to find case information. Despite all this, is email really on the way out? If so, what will replace it?" Listen to the Podcast or read more.

Resource: Jared Correia, Legal Talk Network

Committee Members

Sharon Meit Abrahams, EdD - Foley & Lardner LLP

Mark Davey ~ Ricoh USA, Inc.

Anthony Greene ~ Jamison Risk Services

Eric Hightower, CLM, SPHR ~ Davis Agnor Rapaport Skalny

John Jakovenko, CLM, SPHR ~ Freeman Mathis & Gary

William Mech ~ ofPartner Consulting Services

Steven Morris, CLM, SPHR ~ Allen Matkins

Paul Morton ~ Burns & Levinson LLP

Savannah Robinson, MPA ~ Barnes & Thornburg LLP

ALA Liaison to Committee

Susan Hanf ~ ALA Sr. Director, Member Experience