We’ve been told for decades that technology will transform how we practice law, and we’ve met that prognostication with deep skepticism. After all, we were promised the paperless office. But look at our offices today—like paper-hoarder dens. As justified as our skepticism has been in the past, the engine of technological change has finally reached full RPM. Technologies already in existence (and not just AI) will transform all work in ways that we cannot foresee…cannot even imagine. Many law practices will suffer greatly from that change. However, some will survive…indeed, not just survive, but actually thrive in such an environment. In this opening, keynote session we will explore just how profound and inevitable the impetus for change has become—including a look at some of the math connected to change. What qualities might assure survival in such volatile times? We will look to law firms and other businesses that are already pointing the way forward for those answers, as a few are already showing us exactly what we need to begin doing, now.
John Alber, Futurist
International Legal Technology Association & Institute for the Future of Law Practice
Mid-sized law firms are the likely winners in large segments of the legal market but often don’t see it. From a client’s perspective, rates are far more reasonable, lawyers are far more responsive, expertise is often equal to or even better than the mega-firms, and the risk of conflicts is greatly reduced – important factors not only for local and regional clients, but also nationwide and worldwide clients. Mid-sized firms also have significant advantages in attracting and keeping talent, especially if the firms retain cultures and provide services that are important to senior and junior lawyers alike. This discussion will focus on how law firm leaders can identify and leverage these competitive advantages to help assure long-term success. Michael Roster, who has been on all three sides of the equation as a law firm managing partner, as a general counsel and as a client, will shed some light on the unique competitive position that mid-size firms find themselves in today – and why they may be the key to transforming the legal service delivery model.
Currently: Adjunct professor at University of Southern California
Formerly: General Counsel, Stanford University and Stanford Medical Center; Golden West Financial Corporation, Managing partner of Morrison & Foerster’s Los Angeles office, Chair of Association of Corporate Counsel
Effectively managing a firm’s human capital can contribute significantly to a culture that can differentiate one firm from another and provide a competitive edge. Mid-sized and smaller law firms have an opportunity to outperform their BigLaw counterparts if they use their size and nimbleness to design and perfect the drivers from which a strong culture emanates. This discussion will explore ways your firm can come out on top by (1) recruiting and reskilling your talent and service model to meet shifting client needs and build a culture that embodies current employee priorities, (2) building and aligning your brand and core values to provide meaning, and (3) managing the work experience to improve employee engagement and enhance loyalty and performance.
Susan Saltonstall Duncan, President
RainMaking Oasis, LLC
This panel of mid-size firm managers and leaders will delve into the tools, solutions, strategies, and attitudes that mid-size firms are applying every day to respond to competitive pressure from both big firms and small firms. What are the software solutions that improve your ability to compete? Do you bring your mid-sized attitude work every morning to look for a competitive edge? What are the processes that you have relentlessly focused on optimizing, and what results did you get from that effort? When hiring, what filters are you applying to make sure that your new hires have the attitude a grit to contribute to a mid-sized firm? What initiatives are you planning for 2020 to take your firm performance to the next level? These topics and more will be covered in this fast-paced discussion.
Ross Fishman, JD, CEO
Fishman Marketing, Inc.
Stefanie Marrone Consulting/The Social Media Butterfly
Sam Rosenthal, Director of Data Strategy and Analytics
Foley Hoag LLP
Tom Jones, CEO/Founder
Portfolio management tools and analytics were originated by leading consulting firms fifty years ago. The core principle behind the approach is that effective management of multi-product line companies (i.e. multi-practice law firms) requires leadership to understand the role each practice should play within the law firm. With that knowledge (and hopefully partner consensus), resource allocation and management priorities across practice groups becomes clear and intentional. This discussion will cover:
John Sterling, Chief Strategy and Practice Development Officer
Chapman and Cutler LLP
Law is a notoriously old school industry. Paul Cravath led the most recent mass innovation in law practice, as “recent” as 120 years ago. More recently, innovation at the edges has characterized legal service delivery as observers search for any modern, meaningful change. From Indian outsourcing to contract placement agencies and technology plays, the rise of ALSPs has garnered the attention of investors and journalists. Names like ClearSpire, Axiom, United Lex, and Atrium focus(ed) on commoditizing legal services. They lead with technology and follow with bodies, offering an assembly-line approach to delivery. Many have failed by underestimating the value clients place in trusted legal advisors. Traditional law firms remain the largest depository of trusted advisors but remain steadfast in their old ways. These firms innovate at their own edges with technology and programs designed to placate trailblazers (including millennials) within their midst and generate positive press. Less publicized, new law models are directly challenging the law firm structure. Like Cravath, these firms seek radical innovation in law practice without sacrificing quality or experience. In this ecosystem, teaming with Oldlaw, ALSPs, and Newlaw, Covid-19 and civil unrest are black swans forcing clients and law firms to rethink the who, where, and how of law practice in 2020 and beyond.
James M. Fisher II, Esq., Managing Partner
Kevin E. Broyles, Esq., Managing Partner
With law firms, bigger often isn’t better, despite what you read about more and more mergers to create “mega-firms” of 1,000+ lawyers. The mid-sized law firm can use a number of strategies and techniques to compete very successfully with BigLaw. Using a case study approach, learn how one Chicago-based law firm of 50 lawyers doubles down on technology, professional staff and collaboration (among other strategies and innovations) to create an offering that is not only attractive to its sweet spot of middle-market clients, but also to both the entrepreneurs and Fortune 1000 companies that larger firms often chase for business. Spoiler alert: while you can’t always sell on size, you can sell on scalability – and sophistication.
John M. Byrne, JD, Chief Marketing Officer
Gould + Ratner
Who is your customer – and what do they value? Many law firms (of various shapes and sizes) have implemented formal client feedback programs as a mechanism for gaining insight into the firm/client relationship – with an eye on expanding or at least maintaining the relationship—while providing the client with an opportunity to offer critical feedback relative to the services provided and overall experience. Uncovering exactly what it is that the client values most is arguably the most important component of this initiative. Regardless of firm size and/or structure, who (within the firm) is most qualified to lead these discussions, and why? Or rather should firms look to outsource and engage a third party to facilitate these discussions? To what extent does it make sense for law firms to attempt to formalize feedback programs as a market strategy? In this session, we will hear from Jeffrey Sharp, Managing Partner of Marshall, Gerstein & Borun LLP – as he sheds some light on the importance of granular feedback loops and in selecting a methodology that aligns with the firm’s culture.
Jeffrey S. Sharp, Managing Partner
Marshall, Gerstein & Borun LLP
Knowledge Management (KM) has become a standard function for many large law firms. However, for mid-sized firms, operationalizing the KM function is often a challenge due to limited human and technological resources. This challenge can be overcome. In this session, a veteran of mid-size law firm KM will provide a field-tested, practical framework for implementing KM with limited resources. Through a high-level discussion of over 40 common KM initiatives, this session will cover a simple, scalable approach to KM while revealing several low-to-no-tech solutions that can have a positive impact on your firm’s operations.
Patrick Dundas, Knowledge Management Special Counsel
Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP