Two years ago, Mike Dillon, GC of Sun Microsystems, observed in his post, The Way Of The Mastodon:
My point is that the epoch of the current law firm model – which derives its profitability from growing scale and raising hourly rates – will soon be over. The firms that will survive and thrive are those that recognize this change and focus on how to maintain margins by focusing on efficiency.
Just last week, Dillon said he was shaking his head while reading a post reporting that law firms do not expect to make radical changes as a result of the economic downturn and related changes in the legal marketplace. In light of his earlier prophetic comments, his reaction that this feels "like whistling past the graveyard" should cause all but the most stubborn to at least pause. According to Dillon:
The reality is that we are in the early stages of a seismic shift in the traditional cost and delivery model for legal services. I see it every day in my interactions with the law firms that support us and in my discussions with peers at other companies. This change is the result of three major factors: the current economic downturn, the rise of alternative legal service providers and the lifestyle choices of the newest members of our profession.
Dillon concludes his analysis with this thought for those who persist in propping up the status quo:
Change is always difficult. But, all of us in the legal profession – whether in-house or firm – need to embrace it. For as Benjamin Franklin once said: "When you’re finished changing, you’re finished."
While the tendency is to focus on BigLaw’s resistance to change, the truth is that BigLaw merely reflects what is true about the profession as a whole. Lawyers tend to fear change and are uncomfortable (to say the least) operating with unknowns and uncertainty. Courage is not the absence of fear, it is overcoming your fear to act the may you should rather than instinctively. Change can–and should–be your choice. If you don’t relish it, you need to figure out how to at least be comfortable with it.