Disruptive Innovation: New Models of Legal Practice
Joan C. Williams, Aaron Platt, and Jessica Lee
Volume 67, Issue 1, 1-84
For decades, lawyers have been complaining that they hate working at law firms, and clients have expressed increasing frustration with high legal fees. But complaining is as far as either group went, until recently.
This is perhaps the first attempt at a comprehensive review of a wide variety of new business organizations that have arisen in recent years to remedy the market’s failure to deliver business organizations responsive to the complaints of either lawyers or of clients.
The “New Models of Legal Practice” described here typically offer a new value proposition for lawyers and clients. For lawyers, New Models offer better work-life balance and more control over other aspects of their work lives—in exchange for which lawyers typically shoulder more risk, giving up a guaranteed salary, to be paid instead only for the hours they work. For clients, New Models typically drive down legal fees by sharply diminishing overhead through elimination of expensive real estate and the high cost of training new lawyers, and (again) dispensing with guaranteed salaries.
This Article identifies distinct kinds of New Models being put in place by legal entrepreneurs; Secondment Firms, Law and Business Advice Companies, Law Firm Accordion Companies, Virtual Law Firms and Companies, Innovative Law Firms and Companies, and even Big Law’s entry into New Models. The Article provides useful insight for clients, lawyers dissatisfied with law firms or considering entrepreneurship, and large law firms looking to better respond to the transformation now taking place in the legal sector.