what's hot and not in law practice

On a regular basis, Bob Denney puts himself and his judgment out there and predicts what will be the coming year’s hot—and cold—law practice areas.

He recently did so again, and I encourage you to read his prognostications.

In the meantime, here are a few he mentioned that made me pause and wonder how lawyers and law firms are responding to these new pushes and pulls. As Bob says:

Social media. Continues to be far more effective for building individual lawyer reputations than for firms.

Competition. It’s no longer just from other law firms. It’s now coming from two other directions: Non-legal business entities like LegalZoom and, for large firms, more and more from the clients themselves who are using their legal departments as well as alternate service providers.

Cybersecurity. While many firms have developed plans for reacting to a cyberattack, many more have still not developed or implemented cybersecurity plans to prevent such attacks. One overlooked factor is what actually constitutes a breach. Some firms regard any unsanctioned access of a firm system as a breach, while others do not regard it as a breach until something — data, files or money — has been taken.

Scamblogging. A category of online writing by debt-burdened law school graduates who are convinced their law schools misled them about their opportunities for employment.

What’s growing in your law practice? If it’s a niche or topic that surprises you, please write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

modern law practice technology tools niche

Clio logo

Data + lawyering? Yes, say Clio.

Was it way back in December that I wrote about the new Clio law practice report? And promised you more?

Sorry about that.

Yes, it was in the December issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine that I chatted about the Clio Legal Trends Report. You can read the column here.

Because I’m super-helpful, I’ve pasted in below what I wrote, so you don’t even have to click.

And tomorrow, I’ll offer some more thoughts on what we can learn from the Clio report—and reports like it. Here’s my column (plus an image):

We thought we understood the way the world worked—and then the Cubs won the World Series.

I suppose it’s good we’re still capable of being surprised. It probably says something nice about our capacity for joy. Or something.

Of course, surprises are not always happy, which occurred to me as I read a new report on law practice trends.

Via their “Legal Trends Report,” the people at Clio—the cloud-based practice management people—want you to know two things about your law practice.

First, your practice is a funnel—one that may be malfunctioning.

And second, consider using data—actual facts based in reality—to drive your practice decisions.

Clio will likely say I’m oversimplifying a vast array of takeaways from the report released in late October. But those takeaways—and the underlying facts—are pretty stunning.

dec-2016-editors-column-on-clio-report

Here is a link to the complete report. Read it yourself and let me know what you think.

And here are two insights compiled by Clio:

  • The average rate billed by lawyers across the United States is $232 per hour.
  • The total utilization rate (billable hours as a proportion of hours available in a working day) for lawyers in 2015 was just 28 percent. For solo lawyers, that number drops to just 22 percent.

What makes this noteworthy?

First—and maybe less interesting to you—is the newfound power of data to provide insight. I’ll write more about this in the future (probably in my blog https://azatty.wordpress.com/), but it’s incredible that via our own real-time software choices, companies like Clio can assess the state of law practice—all within the agreed-upon terms of use.

They can see, moment by moment, how many new matters are opened, how many invoices are generated, how many remain unpaid.

Does this spell the end of surveys based on self-reported data? We’ll see.

The second takeaway is related to the unprofitability of many attorneys’ law practices. When we look at just two of Clio’s many charts—Arizona’s average hourly rate, and its (gulp) average collection rate, the situation appears dire.

There’s definitely more to the picture. But as we head into 2017, we will seek ways to tell the true story of law practice challenges.

Until then: Go Cubs.

Fastcase logo

Time to get your Boolean search skills up to snuff, with Fastcase.

Two items to add to your calendar, each from companies that are State Bar of Arizona member benefit providers (see the complete list here):

1. On Thursday, Oct. 20 (10:00 a.m. MST), Fastcase offers its “Introduction to Boolean (Keyword) Searches (2016),” which is part of your legal research member benefit.

2. And on Tuesday, October 18, 2016 (11:00 a.m. PT | 2:00 p.m. ET), Clio offers a free webinar titled “The Shift to Mobile Legal Services.”

As Clio describes:

Clio logo

Mobile + lawyering? Yes, say Clio.

Mobile devices have fundamentally transformed consumer behavior across a number of industries—and legal is no exception. Today’s legal client expects on-demand service and a seamless client experience, and modern lawyers are harnessing mobile technology to help deliver. Are you? Join us to see how attorneys can utilize smartphones in their everyday practice to great benefit, and how to address the inherent security concerns that come from mobile lawyering, including:

  • Ethics to keep in mind when accessing client data in public
  • How to setup your mobile phone for secure access
  • What apps to choose for legal practice, including a sneak peek at Clio’s new app
  • How to protect yourself and your clients while practicing on the go

(These are the same folks who brought you the well-regarded Clio Cloud Conference. Read about it here.)

Clio logoIn the upcoming issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine, you can read a follow-up to a great panel discussion on selecting the right law firm model to match your approach and expectations. It was hosted by David French and was a great way to assess your own practice. I hope he continues to hold similar roundtables.

As you think on those law practice issues, consider a webinar tomorrow that examines niche practice as a source of satisfaction and profitability. It’s hosted by two smart people, so my confidence level is high that attendees will gain a lot of value.

Here are the details of the event, hosted by Clio practice management:

Date: August 9, 2016

Time: 11 a.m. PT — 2 p.m. ET

Clients are no longer seeking lawyers with broad skillsets and general knowledge, but rather experts who focus on a unique industry and specialize in the laws that surround it. Now more than ever lawyers need to abandon the “any case that walks in the door” approach and start a niche practice in order to grow their businesses and find success.

Join Joshua Lenon, Clio’s Lawyer in Residence, and Jay Harrington, author of One of a Kind: A Proven Path to a Profitable Legal Practice, to learn how you can command higher rates, attract high-value clients, and increase your profile by starting a niche firm.

In this one hour webinar Jay and Joshua will discuss:

  • Why it’s important to carve out a niche
  • Why lawyers with niche practices develop more business and command higher rates
  • How to pick a profitable and sustainable area of specialty
  • How to market your niche practice through various thought leadership and content marketing initiatives
  • How to customize your practice management software to your niche

Register for the webinar here.

The Camby Hotel in Phoenix will be the site of what looks to be a valuable lawyer roundtable on Thursday, May 26.

The Camby Hotel in Phoenix will be the site of what looks to be a valuable lawyer roundtable on Thursday, May 26.

We routinely consider the modern challenges that face attorneys and their law practices. But those challenges vary considerably depending on your practice type, firm size, and client base.

That is part of the strategy behind a roundtable discussion this Thursday evening, May 26. Attorney David French, who is also a broad thinker about the legal economy and legal future, will moderate a group of lawyers from diverse practices.

Gathering starting at 5:00 pm at the Camby Hotel in Phoenix, participants range from those in global law firms, to regional (southwest) law firms, to primarily Arizona operations, and even those who have crafted profitable practices as small firms.

RSVP to 602-753-6027 or rsvp@dfrenchadvisors.com.

Those speaking will be:

Here is a flyer with all the information:

roundtable flyer lawyer panel moderated by David French 05-26-16 v2I’ll be there on Thursday evening, and I hope to see you too.

One place for all the practice tools a lawyer could need? That's what the New York State Bar Association has developed. LawHUB

One place for all the practice tools a lawyer could need? That’s what the New York State Bar Association has developed.

I just flew in from New York, and, boy, is my brain tired.

Previously, I wrote about a conference focused on criminal justice that I participated in last week. Hosted in the Big Apple, it brought together great people and some legal luminaries—like Judge Jed Rakoff, U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York.

I plan to tell you more about the symposium soon. But while I was in that great city, I was thinking about a terrific product, recently launched, that benefits attorneys all across that state.

So today, let’s talk about a unique hub that gathers together tools and products that are most useful to practicing lawyers. If I were running the show, I’d aggregate all those tools in an easy-to-use app-like interface, one that remembers me, the individual user, whenever I’m logged on, and one that looks cool, operates fast, and thinks about what I need before I do. And I think I’d call it a lawhub. Or maybe a LawHUB.

New York State Bar Association NYSBA-Logo-darkWhich is precisely what the New York State Bar Association did this year, when it rolled out its innovative LawHUB. Smart folks there.

A benefit for members of the NYSBA (a voluntary bar), LawHUB is impressive, and it’s described by the bar like this:

“LawHUB is the first comprehensive tool for the legal profession that lets attorneys easily and efficiently streamline their practice into one customizable dashboard. Get access to highly curated content, the cloud-based platforms essential to your practice, and a vast network of peers all without leaving the LawHub.”

You can read more about it here, where the NYSBA put out the news. And here is the page where their members get started.

Interested in more? One of the deepest dives available to us nonmembers is on this informative About page.

And for real production values and a quick (and dramatic!) introduction, here is their launch video:

Let me know what you think. Long term, it’s possible the New York State Bar may be seeking to license this platform to other bars and associations. Would this kind of online structure assist you in your law practice?

And in the meantime, congratulations to the smart and innovative folks at the NYSBA!

Yes, mindfulness is making a dent in the legal profession, among other simmering trends.

Yes, mindfulness is making a dent in the legal profession, among other simmering trends.

We all have our guilty pleasures, and I confess one of mine is legal predictions.

Based on the number of folks who share with me their thoughts on which firms will next merge or go belly up, I cannot be the only one.

But among the less painful predictions are those related to what will happen to legal practice areas: Which will grow—and which will shrink—in the coming year.

Among those accomplished at the prognostication task is Bob Denney. His posts with his previews are much anticipated—and shared.

So that’s what I do today. Here are his best estimates for practice area changes in 2016.

For those in too big a hurry to click, here are a few of his predicted areas of growth: cybersecurity, white-collar crime, mergers & acquisitions, and employment & labor. Keep reading here.

Do you agree? Are you seeing the same thing? Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.orgmaybe there’s a story in it.

What’s Hot and What’s Not In The Legal Profession Hot_tamales

OK, I give in to the “hotness” analogy: What’s hot and what’s not In the legal profession?

And here are a few other fascinating bits from Bob Denney:

Social media. Except for Facebook, it continues to be hot. Firm websites and blogs are still among the most effective online means for reaching in-houHot and Not law practice areasse counsel and potential clients, but some marketing experts say they may be surpassed by …

Content syndicators and aggregators. Platforms like JDSupra, Mondaq and even LinkedIn enable a firm to push its content to other sites and services.

Advertising. Whether online, print, TV, radio, billboards or even bus exteriors, advertising continues to be the principal marketing strategy for personal injury lawyers as well as others.

Millennials. Hiring, training and retaining them, as staff as well as lawyers, will continue to be a challenge because many of them chafe against the traditional law firm culture. Yet they are the future of the legal profession.

Departures. Although lateral hiring continues to be a hot growth strategy for many firms, most is at the partner level because firms want the book of business laterals can bring with them. However, fueled to a great degree by the expansion of corporate legal departments, law firm associates and even partners without a large book of business are departing to join legal departments. Why? The workload and the compensation are generally more consistent, without the pressure to record high billable hours and originate business. Translation: The quality of life is better.

Mindfulness movement. There are now reportedly at least two dozen law schools that offer for-credit courses in this Zen-inspired blend of meditation, breathing exercises and focus techniques, which are supported by companies such as Google and General Mills. At least one law firm and the legal department of a major corporation retain a mindfulness coach.

Bar exam scores. The average score on the 2015 summer bar exams reached its lowest level since 1988. Some law school deans have said the test was unfair and that a software glitch made it harder to submit test results. The president of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, which created the multiple-choice section of the test, replied that law schools have been admitting students with lower qualifications who may encounter difficulty in taking the exam. And, of course, applications to law schools have been declining.