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Guest Post by Nicole Black: 21st Century Clients’ Expectations & BigLaw Collide – And It Ain’t Pretty

August 12, 2013

The Last Honest Lawyer is pleased to publish our very first guest post – authored by MyCase’s Nicole Black.  Niki gives us her take on the controversial New Republic article on the problems facing BigLaw in the 21st Century.


If, like some lawyers, you’ve had your head in the sand, you might be unaware that the legal landscape has changed dramatically in recent years. Internet-based technologies have affected all aspects of our culture, including consumer expectations and the ways that business is conducted. Because of the mobile and Internet revolutions, we now have instantaneous access to information, resulting in consumers who are more knowledgeable, more selective, and more demanding. Accordingly, online payments are the norm and consumers have come to expect more for their money, fast response times, and quick answers.

When “consumers” suddenly encounter legal problems and thus become “legal consumers,” their expectations do not suddenly change. Instead, 21st century legal consumers expect just as much from their attorneys as they do from other non-legal service providers. This sudden shift in expectations has dramatically increased competition in the legal services space and has had an astounding effect on the delivery of legal services. For evidence of this, you need look no further than the huge success of LegalZoom and similar services and the predicted decline of BigLaw.

The latter effect is discussed in a recent Bloomberg Current post, wherein the various factors that are believed to be contributing to the decline of BigLaw are summarized:

In “The Last Days of Big Law,” senior editor Noam Scheiber sets forth all the factors that are chipping away at the trappings of law firm partnership and are quickly bringing that profession’s golden age to a close:

  • Gone is the stability that for decades defined BigLaw. (Just look at the 12 law firm failures that have played out over the past decade for some insight into how big law firms have gotten to this point.)
  • Competition for business is fierce, both externally (bring in clients) and internally (be busy, stay busy, take credit for everything). Imagine partners having to place cold calls–one unnamed lawyer says it’s come to this.
  • Clients are demanding more work, lower fees, alternative fees, and more.

In other words, 21st century technologies have transformed legal consumers’ expectations and BigLaw is wholly unequipped to pivot with the changing times. This means that there exists a vacuum in the legal marketplace just waiting to be filled. And nimble solo and small firm attorneys are uniquely poised to step in and take advantage of this legal services gap.

So, change is upon us and it’s time to seize the day and take advantage of the unique opportunities now presented by this shift. Innovate in the delivery of legal services and  meet consumer demands by implementing new ways of serving clients, including alternative fee arrangements. Utilize cutting edge technologies, such as web-based law practice management systems to communicate and collaborate with your clients.

The time is now. Innovate in the delivery of legal services and exceed expectations. Your clients–and your bottom line–will thank you!

Nicole Black is an attorney in Rochester, New York, is the Director of Business Development at MyCase, a web-based law practice management platform, and is the ABA-published author of “Cloud Computing for Lawyers” and the co-author of “Social Media for Lawyers.”

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Joanie Mann permalink
    August 15, 2013 11:47 am

    Nicole, you are so right. It’s also happening with accountants and other professional service providers. Technology means the difference between staying relevant in your market and not; and Do-It-Yourself and “retail”approaches are very real threats to professional providers.

    With the industry generally moving towards an online, enabling model, those who do not embrace such technologies will rapidly find themselves attempting to compete. As the trend continues to devalue various processes by essentially hiding them from the consumer (the client business), the position of the professional services provider is also devalued.

    By embracing the technology/enabling model now, the professional service organization positions itself to function as seamlessly with the market as the online service

  2. Guest permalink
    August 21, 2013 11:56 am

    Could it also be that consumers can no longer afford attorney fees?


  1. Guide To The Cloud: Is It Time To Move Your Legal Practice Management Software To The Cloud?-MyCase | lennyesq
  2. 21st Century Clients’ Expectations & BigLaw Collide – And It Ain’t Pretty | TheArtofTrialSciences

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