Opinion: No Passing Fad, ADR Is The New Normal
A great deal of interest has been expressed of late as to the future of the profession of law, both in Connecticut and throughout the country.
Several years ago, a Connecticut Bar Association Task Force on the Future of the Legal Profession, co-chaired by Brad Saxton, who was then the dean of Quinnipiac School of Law, and Tim Fisher, now is now the law school dean at the University of Connecticut, provided many thoughtful but sobering ideas on what was on the horizon, including some trends portending significant changes.
Other analyses, such as Richard Susskind's The End of Lawyers?, identify a number of new models which could change the legal practice landscape dramatically.
Just some of the significant trends which have become evident across the country are:
• A demand by corporate clients for a departure from the traditional billable hours format toward alternative fee structures. Recently, the United Technologies Corp.'s legal department was honored by the Association of Corporate counsel for pioneering efforts in achieving alternative billing. Similarly, Henkel Corporation's legal department was recognized by the Connecticut Law Tribune for utilizing a request for proposal process for all new outside counsel hires. Neither of these approaches would hardly have been considered mainstream a decade or two ago. Moreover, corporate clients are demonstrating a greater appetite and knowledge of alternative dispute resolution (ADR).
• Growing support for the unbundling of certain legal services and limited-scope representation.
• More people passing the bar than there are job openings. (This publication reported that there were twice as many admittees in 2009 than there were openings.)
• Declining law firm revenues: The American Lawyer magazine reported that revenues have stalled or fallen at almost 25 percent of the nation's 100 top-grossing firms.
• Technological efficiencies and outsourcing of services meaning less work for the armies of new associates hired by major law firms.
The result of these economically and technologically driven factors has been a change in the very structure of the traditional law firm and the way it does business.