Ahead of the Curve (March 2015)

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.


Strength in Numbers for Firm Leadership?

As the pressures of an increasingly competitive legal market have forced firms to play with alternative rate structures and business models, firms have also increasingly begun challenging the traditional notion of needing a single firm leader, according to some legal consultants. Read the article.

Resource: Max Mitchell at The Legal Intelligencer

Rainmakers resist the rewards of collaboration

High-earning lone wolf lawyers might be able to increase their earnings by collaborating with colleagues and doing more on cross-selling but research published in the Harvard Business Review says that they struggle to put the common good first. Read the article.

Resource: Neasa MacErlean in The Global Legal Post


Law Firm Resource Management: It’s About Time

There are significant potential benefits in being able to predict and manage the likely future over-capacity or under-capacity of fee-earning staff. The underlying cost of such staff is a law firm’s greatest single expense line. It follows that any ability to get this done better will result either in the ability to take on more work or the ability to cut costs by just the right amount while the work drops off. The difference in either case is a greater profit margin in relation to staff costs. Read the article.

Resource: Neil Cameron

Future Focus

2015 Report on the State of the Legal Market

Every January, the Center for the Study of the Legal Profession at the Georgetown University Law Center and Thomson Reuters Peer Monitor join forces to publish an annual report analyzing the legal industry. This year’s report says that, although there has been dramatic and fundamental change in the market for legal services, law firms have been astonishingly slow to react. Even so, most law firms saw modest improvement in financial performance in 2014 compared to the year before. Read the whitepaper.

Resource: Managing Partner Forum

Strategic Planning for Small Law Firms

Pressed for time and averse to business jargon, solos and small law firms may be overlooking benefits of strategic planning that include more and better business over the long term. Read the article.

Resource: Roy S. Ginsberg, puplished in Bench & Bar of Minnesota

Behind the Office Depot/Office Max Merger

Speaking on the legal services industry as a whole, Elisa Garcia says that law departments “generally tend to be taking greater control of all aspects of matter management. They’re conscious of the costs, going deeper with law firms and other service providers on staffing, putting in quality metrics, and sometimes paying against those metrics. They’re starting to get more businesslike.”

She says that in-house counsel is exercising its options. “You don’t just go to a law firm and say ‘get this done for us.’ Instead, you say, ‘here are the five contract lawyers you’ll have working with you, and this is our e-discovery provider.’ You work with a team.”

Another new trend within the legal department is “more preventative lawyering,” Garcia says. “It has always frustrated me to be putting out fires or playing whack-a-mole.” She says that business influence is rubbing off on the legal department. “We see the business use Lean Six Sigma and project management; we’re learning these principles and applying them to legal matters, doing root cause analyses.”

And, she appreciates whatever efforts law firms are making to use technology for clients, such as self-service portals. “I would love to see all of us using more technology to make life easier for our clients,” she says. “I keep pushing my team to do it.” Read the article.

Resource: Elisa D. Garcia at Lumen Legal

The Future of Work 2015 - 2020

Rather than add to all the hyperentilating about the disruptive changes that will impact and reimagine the Future of Work... We studied what it will take to make those disruptive changes work and what matters in the future of work. Read this study for findings on leadership, engagement and personal accountability.

Resource: 2014 Search for a Simpler Way, Future of Work Study

Human Resources

The Next Frontier for Outsourcing: Professional Service Outsourcing

The next time you visit your doctor, you might be surprised that a lot of the billing done for your medical bills, as well as the processing of the tests you took, are outsourced. We are not just talking about outsourcing across state lines or to the other side of the United States. We are talking about outsourcing to the other side of the planet. Similarly, when you talk to a lawyer, a lot of the materials your lawyer looks to for research are actually processed and analyzed increasingly in India. Welcome to the brave new world of professional service outsourcing. Read the article.

Resource: Jacob Maslow in StreetWise Journal

5 Tips for Better Law Firm Phone Interviews

The phone interview is quickly becoming the go-to method for a first round of interviews. Phone interviews are cheaper for everyone, faster to conduct, and don't waste as much of the time of the people who inevitably won't get called back for an in-person interview. Read the article.

Resource: Mark Wilson, Esq. at FindLaw for Legal Professionals

Transformative Practice: will the traditional law firm model dominate much longer in Canada?

It’s already beyond question that the traditional law firm model will not survive as the virtually exclusive method of delivering legal services. In Canada, if it wasn’t already a myth, it went the way of the dodo when paralegals were integrated into the profession’s regulatory scheme but allowed to operate independently. In the UK and Australia, where alternative business structures have been a fact of life for some time – more than a decade in Australia – the mystique of the traditional law firm as the be-all and end-all legal services provider is in tatters. Read the article.

Resource: Julius Melnitzer at Lexpert Business of Law


Findings from the 7th Annual Law Department Operations Survey

For seven years, The Blickstein Group and Inside Counsel have been tracking challenges facing law department operations executives via the Annual Law Department Operations Survey.

This year's survey results show LDO executives have become more efficient, but are wary over law firm security and managing data. What are the other top concerns? Read the article.

Source: Inside Counsel

Wall St. and Law Firms Plan Cooperative Body to Bolster Online Security

The threat of ever-larger online attacks is bringing together Wall Street banks and the big law firms that do work for them in an alliance that could result in some sharing of basic information about digital security issues. Read the article.

Resource: The New York Times

Managing Risk: What If Your Assumptions Are Wrong?

Everyone makes assumptions. You might be surprised, though, at how many malpractice claims result merely from a lawyer working under a false assumption. Read the article.

Resource: Mark Bassingthwaighte at Attorney at Work


Legal Organizations Plan to Invest More in Data Analytics

A new survey from Huron Consulting shows that over the next two years, legal professionals will take data analytics to the next level.

Resource: Erin E. Harrison at Law Technology News

Major Changes Could Be in Store for Law Firm Websites

The majority of Am Law 200 firms have revamped their websites in the last couple of years, with one consultant putting a price range on those projects of anywhere from $25,000 to $1 million. But regardless of the cost, many of the sites, consultants say, look largely the same. Read the article.

Resource: Gina Passarella at The Legal Intelligencer

Five Ways to Revive Your LinkedIn Profile

If you’ve been away from LinkedIn for a while, or have just changed jobs or focus, it might be time to check out the social networking site’s new features and update your profile. Why focus on LinkedIn? Survey after survey (including Attorney at Work’s own social media survey) show that’s where lawyers and general counsel go when they are focused on doing business, or learning about business. Read the article.

Resource: Joan Feldman at Attorney At Work

Clients Eye Law Firms as Security Weak Link

Law firm leaders should be bracing for some tough conversations about data security. Alarmed by a series of stunning corporate breaches, companies are getting serious about shoring up their security—and are starting to focus on the outside legal advisers privy to some of their most sensitive corporate secrets Read the article.

Resource: David Ruiz at The Recorder

Know What you are Sending (with a little help) from MS Word

Eighteen jurisdictions have ethics opinions on metadata. All of them suggest that a lawyer who is sending an electronic document should take reasonable precautions to prevent disclosure of confidential information. Read the article.

Resource: The Chicago Bar Association

Committee Members

Anthony Greene ~ Jamison Risk Services

Eric Hightower, CLM, SPHR ~ Davis Agnor Rapaport Skalny

John Jakovenko, CLM, SPHR ~ Freeman Mathis & Gary

Mark Davey ~ Ricoh USA, Inc.

Nolan Kurtz ~ Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC

Savannah Robinson, MPA ~ Barnes& Thornburg LLP

Steven Morris, CLM, SPHR ~ Allen Matkins

William Mech ~ ofPartner Consulting Services

ALA Liaison to Committee

Susan Hanf ~ ALA Sr. Director, Member Experience