Surveys & Special Reports

Lawyer Staffing Structures Special Report: Law Firms in Transition 2010

Partnership in US law firms is now harder to attain and will remain so according to the 2010 Law Firms in Transition survey.

Nearly 40% of firms made fewer partnership offers in 2009, and 50% indicated that they will or might do so in 2010.  Over a quarter of all law firms reported de-equitizing partners in 2009 and 37% will or might do so this year. An additional 14% extended the partnership track in 2009 and 20% will or might do so in 2010.  The majority of firms expect each of these trends to be permanent going forward.

This is a key element in the changing equation of law firm finance.  Firms will maintain their profits per partner, in large part, by managing the number of partners they admit.

When asked about other staffing alternatives, firms expressed a growing enthusiasm for contract lawyers.  In 2009, 39% of law firms reported using contract lawyers.  In 2010, 53% will or might do so; and, 52% expect that contract lawyers will become a permanent part of their staffing plans.

By contrast, less than 10% of firms outsourced or offshored legal work in 2009 or plan to do so in 2010.  Only 28% of law firms expect outsourcing of legal work to be permanently adopted in the future, and 22% expect the same for offshoring.

Despite the potential for cost savings, law firms remain highly skeptical of outsourcing and offshoring and will likely only adopt them when pushed by clients to do so.

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