englawyer wrote:I have talked to some law firm people about this. Apparently the big drivers of change are clients who are sick of paying 1st years crazy rates.
#1) Increased use of "contract" attorneys. Rather than try to hire an army of associates who will do doc-review, etc. as much of the work as possible will be given to contract attorneys. Those are the types of jobs that pay OK but have nothing to do with the farm and are obviously not partner tracked. This will allow the firms to lower their hourly rates.
#2) Smaller number of associates. An inevitable effect of #1 is a decrease in class size. However, the associates that do get jobs will be doing more important/interesting work to justify the higher rates. These folks will also be in a better position to advance in the firm (less competition, etc)
#3) Alternative fee arrangements. Some think that billable hour is on the way out. This should change the metrics/evaluation of associates, as someone that does reasonable quality efficient work will be better than someone that spends a bagillion hours to get it perfect.
I've heard of all three of these, but what catches my attention most is #3.
Talk of alternative fee arrangements seemed to peek during the financial crisis, but I don't see it being flaunted on legal tabloids or news as much anymore. I for some reason think that the billable hours scheme will continue on, just like how the demand for gas guzzler cars begin to fluctuate as soon as oil prices decrease (weak analogy, but please forgive).