Opinion: No Passing Fad, ADR Is The New Normal
Indeed, the law firm community has been experiencing a number of shockwaves: one of the most striking was revelation of the extreme financial difficulties at Dewey & LeBoeuf, a worldwide firm with a rich history. Another example was the announcement by Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP that it was laying off some 60 associates and more than 100 other employees while significantly reducing partner take-home pay to the tune of what was reported to be "hundreds of thousands of dollars" per year. All of this was caused by a drop-off in business. The Wall Street Journal quoted the executive partner as referring to the situation as "the new normal."
Although many of the seismic law firm changes became most evident after the financial collapse five years ago, the consolidation, shrinkage and general upheaval continue even as the economy improves. Nor has Connecticut been immune from these developments, as it has seen its share of law firm contractions.
Specific areas of practice have been particularly affected by the fast-moving changes. Not the least of these areas has been the field of litigation and ADR. Evidencing ADR's role in some of the major changes taking place are:
• The emergence of ADR departments within some of Connecticut's most prestigious law firms.
• The departure from the bench of some our most respected judges for a career in private dispute resolution.
• An increased Judicial Branch emphasis on ADR.
• A noticeable increase in attention to ADR in all three of Connecticut's law schools,
• Settlements producing major shortfalls in anticipated law firm total revenue. One national report projected a $35 million gap in a major national firm's anticipated earnings because of settlements in major cases.
• The pronounced decrease in the number of filed jury cases going to judgment resulting in discussions of the "vanishing trial."
Increasingly, Connecticut's — and the nation's — most accomplished trial lawyers have demonstrated skill and accumulated experience in alternative methods of dispute resolution. Mediation, for example, no longer has to be forced upon trial counsel by an insistent corporate client or ADR organization, but is frequently selected as the dispute resolution mechanism of first preference.