As our American economy gamely struggles upward, law firms have stepped, or been pushed, to the forefront of the business world as examples of reactive change. But for a profession so steeped in its own traditions and lore, change can come slowly.
Not so across the board: Tom Yannucci, of Kirkland & Ellis, believes efficiency will make all the difference in the post-recession legal arena. Mr. Yannucci stresses the importance of rapidity in a digital age; clients, he believes, require quicker legal assistance than ever before to meet swiftly changing conditions and will stick with the firm able to provide it. Mr. Yannucci believes the trade-off is painstakingly thorough work (thorough, that is, to such a degree that a good number of billable hours are spent in the production of it). Clients will trade excessive footnotes for speed, he thinks, and will welcome the lower cost of less duplicative research by fewer attorneys.
This means a scramble among law firms to trim the fat and grow lean, before others do. A sleeker model will mean fewer hours billed to clients, faster turn-around of work matters, and a more focused strategy with fewer peripheral issues to distract attorneys (and cost clients).