Law Firms and Their Future in the Changing Legal Industry |

Law Firms and Their Future in the Changing Legal Industry


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When considering and, specifically, the nature of marketing legal services in the future, the best guide is empirical data of two kinds: (1) law-specific data combined with (2) information from the mature unregulated service professions.
Law firms and Their Future in the Changing Legal Industry

Both data indicate the same trends: There will be an ever-increasing trend to multinational megafirms. But there will also be an ever-increasing trend to boutiques and even highly successful solo practitioners. Simultaneously, a decrease in individual attorney loyalty to law firms' institutionally will continue. Those firms clearly doomed to extinction are the "general-practice" or "full-service" midsized firms. Whether your firm, like the dinosaurs, is headed for the tar pits or not is a function of the size of your target market segments, defined in terms of geography, demography, or industrial classification.

There in lies the clue to future success: The survivors will know their target client group inside out and upside down. The depth of information will greatly exceed that of an occasional social encounter or friendly neighbor relationship. If there is a new trend, it will be toward a greater segmentation and establishment of relationships along psychographic lines, that is, life-styles and values.

Considerable attention will continue to be given to the legal profession by both the business and popular press. Subjects such as lawyer incomes, firm structures, mergers, and legal trends, all command significant space in the press and attention by the electronic media.

One trend that will not come to fruition is a Big Eight or Big Five as has happened in the accounting profession. Why?
There are two contributing factors:
  1. Law is more complex with more separately identified practice areas.
  2. By its nature, the practice of law requires stronger egos which probably translates into more individuals wanting to be the big frogs.
A frequent recurring issue will be alternatives to conventional legal service. While alternate dispute resolution (ADR) is touted as a promising trend to lower litigation incidence and costs, ADR is by no means the only issue. Legal technicians, legal clinics, storefront law offices, do-it-yourself legal software, and fill-in-the-blank legal documents are all getting wider attention. To a certain degree, they will be successful in capturing legal fees. Why? It is not just a matter of the cost of legal services but perceived value as well. It's no secret that the level of distrust by the lay public of both civil and criminal courts has risen, reflecting a lack of faith in the legal system altogether. Therefore, as a profession, law needs to reassess what it can do to reverse this alarming trend and implement proactive strategies.
Importance of client service

Ideally, all attorneys—public and private alike—must assure that their clients are being well served, specifically making sure they are getting the results they want, to the extent allowable. For lawyers in private practice, this is just another reason for niche marketing, which calls for specialized expertise to be focused for a unique clientele. It is neither practical nor possible to "be all things to all people." The best approach is to pick a niche and then to serve the clientele or constituency to the greatest extent possible.

A final trend is that in order to better serve the business and corporate clients, megafirms will own other professional firms, such as engineering, public relations, land use consultants, and on and on. In sum, the obvious conclusion is that the profession will become more crowded. There will continue an even more rapid attrition of practicing attorneys.
Opportunities will exist in abundance for those who are smart marketers—those who deliver what the market needs, focusing on niches, and those who do a good job of building recognition and credibility without losing sight of their single best source of new business and referrals, their existing client base. Whether in multinational megafirms, boutiques, or solo, lawyers need to be sensitive to the nature of a maturing profession. In the simplest of all terms, client-focus is the answer to the future.

Knowing and implementing the Client-Focus Theory

Most attorneys attend law school for two reasons: to reach personal and financial objectives. Attorneys who are happy in their practice of law today are attaining both goals, at least to some satisfactory degree. If these goals are not being met, for whatever reason, the attorney logically takes corrective action. It is clear that attorneys cannot practice the law they want without the clients who need the expertise the attorney can pro¬ vide. It is also clear that attorneys cannot earn the dollars they want without clients who can and are willing to pay. So the clients must be found and maintained. This search for clients is called business development, or marketing. The client-focus theory holds that fulfillment of the attorney's personal and financial goals comes through a focus on client needs. When the right clients are found and served well, it is a win-win situation, allowing attorneys to practice what they want and with whom they want. For the attorney, finding the right clients means the clients will receive superior legal service. The clients will obtain desired results. In the process, the attorney will be satisfied with his or her practice and, presumably, be compensated for this service. Some essays on legal marketing divide all attorneys into two groups. One group of attorneys is production or practice centered. These attorneys are oriented toward the practice of specific areas of the law. They know which area of the law they like to practice, and they are usually very good at it. The other group is client centered, focusing on client needs. The client- focus theory says that being client centered is ultimately the only valid orientation for successful attorneys. Being client-focused means having an active plan to deliver superior legal products and services to clients at the time they want to buy.

Importance of understanding your clients

Understanding clients goes beyond knowing a little about their business or a few things about their personal lives. Real understanding means knowing what causes a client to make a particular decision. It means developing a personal relationship with each client, upon which a foundation of trust can be established. Individual attorneys must foster these relationships. The client, therefore, becomes the center on which the attorney's world turns. The client-focus theory is the key to ultimate attorney success. It removes the clutter from the marketing matrix by narrowing the attorney's efforts to serve the client. Attorneys will always need to remain legal practitioners of the highest quality. But through the adoption of a client-focused attitude, and the embracing of practical methods to enhance client service, the attorney will also see the practice grow and prosper, ultimately fulfilling his or her personal and financial goals.
Interested in Learning More About Legal Hiring? Read the Definitive Guide:

How to Hire a Legal Recruiter for Your Law Firm: How Law Firms Recruit Attorneys Using Legal Recruiters

About Harrison Barnes

Harrison Barnes is a prominent figure in the legal placement industry, known for his expertise in attorney placements and his extensive knowledge of the legal profession.

With over 25 years of experience, he has established himself as a leading voice in the field and has helped thousands of lawyers and law students find their ideal career paths.

Barnes is a former federal law clerk and associate at Quinn Emanuel and a graduate of the University of Chicago College and the University of Virginia Law School. He was a Rhodes Scholar Finalist at the University of Chicago and a member of the University of Virginia Law Review. Early in his legal career, he enrolled in Stanford Business School but dropped out because he missed legal recruiting too much.

Barnes' approach to the legal industry is rooted in his commitment to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. He believes that the key to success in the legal profession is to be proactive, persistent, and disciplined in one's approach to work and life. He encourages lawyers to take ownership of their careers and to focus on developing their skills and expertise in a way that aligns with their passions and interests.

One of how Barnes provides support to lawyers is through his writing. On his blog,, and, he regularly shares his insights and advice on a range of topics related to the legal profession. Through his writing, he aims to empower lawyers to control their careers and make informed decisions about their professional development.

One of Barnes's fundamental philosophies in his writing is the importance of networking. He believes that networking is a critical component of career success and that it is essential for lawyers to establish relationships with others in their field. He encourages lawyers to attend events, join organizations, and connect with others in the legal community to build their professional networks.

Another central theme in Barnes' writing is the importance of personal and professional development. He believes that lawyers should continuously strive to improve themselves and develop their skills to succeed in their careers. He encourages lawyers to pursue ongoing education and training actively, read widely, and seek new opportunities for growth and development.

In addition to his work in the legal industry, Barnes is also a fitness and lifestyle enthusiast. He sees fitness and wellness as integral to his personal and professional development and encourages others to adopt a similar mindset. He starts his day at 4:00 am and dedicates several daily hours to running, weightlifting, and pursuing spiritual disciplines.

Finally, Barnes is a strong advocate for community service and giving back. He volunteers for the University of Chicago, where he is the former area chair of Los Angeles for the University of Chicago Admissions Office. He also serves as the President of the Young Presidents Organization's Century City Los Angeles Chapter, where he works to support and connect young business leaders.

In conclusion, Harrison Barnes is a visionary legal industry leader committed to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. Through his work at BCG Attorney Search, writing, and community involvement, he empowers lawyers to take control of their careers, develop their skills continuously, and lead fulfilling and successful lives. His philosophy of being proactive, persistent, and disciplined, combined with his focus on personal and professional development, makes him a valuable resource for anyone looking to succeed in the legal profession.

About BCG Attorney Search

BCG Attorney Search matches attorneys and law firms with unparalleled expertise and drive, while achieving results. Known globally for its success in locating and placing attorneys in law firms of all sizes, BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys in law firms in thousands of different law firms around the country. Unlike other legal placement firms, BCG Attorney Search brings massive resources of over 150 employees to its placement efforts locating positions and opportunities its competitors simply cannot. Every legal recruiter at BCG Attorney Search is a former successful attorney who attended a top law school, worked in top law firms and brought massive drive and commitment to their work. BCG Attorney Search legal recruiters take your legal career seriously and understand attorneys. For more information, please visit

Harrison Barnes does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for attorneys and law students each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can attend anonymously and ask questions about your career, this article, or any other legal career-related topics. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

Harrison also does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for law firms, companies, and others who hire attorneys each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

You can browse a list of past webinars here: Webinar Replays

You can also listen to Harrison Barnes Podcasts here: Attorney Career Advice Podcasts

You can also read Harrison Barnes' articles and books here: Harrison's Perspectives

Harrison Barnes is the legal profession's mentor and may be the only person in your legal career who will tell you why you are not reaching your full potential and what you really need to do to grow as an attorney--regardless of how much it hurts. If you prefer truth to stagnation, growth to comfort, and actionable ideas instead of fluffy concepts, you and Harrison will get along just fine. If, however, you want to stay where you are, talk about your past successes, and feel comfortable, Harrison is not for you.

Truly great mentors are like parents, doctors, therapists, spiritual figures, and others because in order to help you they need to expose you to pain and expose your weaknesses. But suppose you act on the advice and pain created by a mentor. In that case, you will become better: a better attorney, better employees, a better boss, know where you are going, and appreciate where you have been--you will hopefully also become a happier and better person. As you learn from Harrison, he hopes he will become your mentor.

To read more career and life advice articles visit Harrison's personal blog.

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