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Accelerated Innovation Needed in Legal Industry, Reports Law Firm Survey

WILLOW GROVE, PENNSYLVANIA — Legal industry consultancy Altman Weil released their annual Law Firms in Transition Survey on Monday, providing readers with a comprehensive analysis of the trends in the legal industry.

Using data from a survey of half of the nation’s large and mid-size firms, the report paints a dynamic picture of the business of legal practice in 2018. While many large firms still currently bring in substantial revenue, the report admonishes the legal industry as a whole for observing rapid change in the legal market while generally only making incremental or short-term adjustments.

Much of the need for change centers around cost efficiency. The report identifies increased competition among law firms and less-traditional sources such as contract attorneys as a major factor in the legal market going forward. Such considerations result in lower legal fees. Corporate clients have also moved some work in-house, thereby decreasing the overall demand for law firms’ services, even while many large firms are overstaffed. The report therefore recommends a number of measures for addressing expenses and increasing cost efficiency.

Commenting on technology as “a force that is literally changing everything,” the survey further reports that more than 85% of respondents consider technology as a force that will affect the practice of law in a permanent way going forward, even to the point of displacing personnel.

In the concerns it raised, the survey paralleled Dr. Grüneberg's remarks as quoted in a recent Law360 article about the benefits of small law firm prosecution. There, Dr. Grüneberg and others noted an increased demand for cost-efficiency but with maintained quality and client-centered focus. Although the Altman Weil survey results from the responses of partners from larger firms, it reaches the conclusion that many of the partners in such firms either resist adaptation to the legal market of 2018 (69% of firms, up from 44% in 2015) or simply are not aware of what they might do differently (60% of firms, up from 53% in 2016).

Ultimately, “There are clear signals that some law firms are making a shift to new business models that will serve them well in the future and improve their sustainability,” the Altman Weil survey concludes. “Those that do not recognize the urgent need to begin the change process may ultimately be unable to catch up.”

Launched in September 2017, Grüneberg and Myers PLLC is a 100 percent female- and minority-owned international patent firm. With a broad and sophisticated practice, the firm provides a full range of patent support services, including patent prosecution, counseling, post-grant representation, and M&A due diligence to meet the growing and diverse needs of U.S.-based, European, and Asian companies, entrepreneurs, and inventors.

Eric Myers