STATE BAR STRAW POLL OF LAW FIRM MANAGING PARTNERS
SHOWS GUARDED OPTIMISM ABOUT THE FUTURE:
90% Expect the Demand for Legal Services to
Remain the Same or Increase in 2011
Majority Said Clients Complain About or Refuse to
Pay for Work of Young Associates
A straw poll of 21 managing partners at New York law firms revealed
guarded optimism about hiring trends and demand for legal services in
2011. Only two of the 21 respondents said that they anticipated
legal work would decrease next year, while more than 50 percent expected
to hire the same number or slightly more first year associates than in
The informal poll was conducted earlier this week by the New
York State Bar Association at a meeting of managing partners
from large, mid-size and boutique lawn firms under the auspices of the
Association’s Task Force on the Future of the Legal
Profession. The Task Force was established in June 2010
by State Bar President Stephen P. Younger of New York (Patterson Belknap
Webb & Tyler LLP) to study and recommend ways to create a roadmap
for the future use of technology in the profession, to improve legal
education and training, to establish proper work/life balance for
attorneys, and to analyze the billing structure in law firms.
“One thing was clear from yesterday’s dynamic and lively
discussion – whether from firms large or small, they all agreed
that the profession is ready for permanent, positive changes that will
allow us to better serve the modern client while shaping a profession
that is satisfying to today's lawyers and appealing to future
lawyers,” said President Younger.
“Significantly, there was consensus around the table on many
issues. Clients want fixed and predictable costs, and lawyers are
willing to try alternative billing methods, such as value billing,
because this leads to increased efficiency, better trained lawyers and
greater opportunity to achieve work-life balance,” Younger
Also in attendance at the meeting was American Bar Association
President Stephen N. Zack, who predicted that the practice of law will
change more in the next ten years than in the past 200 years.
Survey highlights include:
? All managing partners who were polled confirmed that
their firms had experimented with something other than the billable
hours system. Six of the 21 respondents (almost 30%) said their
firms “regularly” used alternate billing methods.
? 11 of the managing partners also said that clients
complain about having to pay for the work of first- or second-year
associates. Two additional respondents said that clients refuse to pay
for such services.
? 18 of the 21 managing partners said that their firms
expected attorneys to respond to non-emergency emails and phone calls on
weekends and holidays.
? The vast majority (18 of 21) indicated that their firms
offer flex policies including reduced hours, job sharing and flex
times. Not surprisingly, more women attorneys took advantage of
flex time than their male counterparts.
? 66% of the managing partners said their firms hired
fewer attorneys in 2010 when compared to more typical years.
? However, the outlook for 2011 was that a little more
than half expected to hire the same number of associates as in 2010.
? 11 of the 21 managing partners said they anticipated
demand for legal services to remain flat in 2011; while 8 believed
workload would increase modestly.
Of the managing partners who responded, six were from firms of
25 lawyers or less; three were from firms of 26-100 attorneys; six
managed firms of 101-250 lawyers; and six were in firms of over 250
Mr. Younger said that the Task Force on the Future of the Profession
will continue to meet with members of the profession, including small
firm and solo practitioners, to gather information on these important
issues. The Task Force will release a report on its findings in
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state bar association in the nation. Founded in 1876, State Bar programs
and activities have continuously served the public and improved the
justice system for more than 130 years. For more information, please
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