Aric Press gives PLLIP Summit Keynote (c. O’Grady)

The 2015 Private Law Librarians and Information
Professionals Summit  was held on July
18th in conjunction with the annual AALL meeting in Philadelphia. This year’s
Summit  kicked off  with a keynote from Aric Press. Press is the former Editor-in-Chief of
American Lawyer and currently a law firm consultant with Bernero & Press. His
keynote was entitled “Clients, Culture and the Future.” After several years of
grim forecasts for the legal profession, Press was rather “bullish” on the
legal profession. He believes that clients are not entirely comfortable with the range of new legal service providers and don’t understand AFAs. Big Law firms have a chance to “win” the future if they adopt “winning” strategies.

Embracing Disruption

Although many aspects of the legal profession have been evolving in the past 20 years,  law firms have not been “disrupted.” Press acknowledged that the role of law librarians has been more
dramatically transformed by technology than even the work of lawyers. He
suggested that if a 19th Century lawyer were to walk in to one of our firms,
the work and the tools of the 21st century information professional would be
completely unrecognizable. Press saluted many information professionals for embracing both technology and change in an environment of extremely constricted budgets. Lawyers are still drafting documents but law
librarians are performing completely new functions. 
He believes that the future is bright for the business
and practice of law. Even though the era of surging growth is over,  the legal more it is worth $255 billion. Press
outlined a series of questions and issues which information professionals and
other legal administrators need to understand in order to help their firms
successfully navigate the next decade.

Four  questions  that drive the legal marketplace: 

1. Do we know what our clients need?

2. Do we have the right mix of
talent and services to meet those needs?

3. Do our clients know what we

4. Do we know why our clients
hire us and why they don’t?

These are not only important questions for law firms but
also for  information professionals and
other law firm administrators. Press believes that firms which can answer “yes”
to  those four questions could win the
coming decade.

Four secular changes:

1.Legal spending by corporate
America fell with the great recession and hasn’t returned

2.The AmLaw 200 firms increased
share of domestic spending 247% in 2010 and have held it

3. The Nature of partnership has

4. The big firm market has
segmented. By size ( headcount and gross revenue), by reach and by financial

Some demographic factoids:

Since 2008 the 6 verein firms employ over 9,000

The biggest Amlaw 200 firm is 7 times larger
than the smallest

The biggest Amlaw 200 firm has 25 times the
revenue of the smallest

10 firms account for 2/3s of the non-US lawyer

Since the great recession 85 firms grew, 85
firms shrank and 1 firm remained flat.

Equity partner are a smaller share of law firm
headcount in 2013 than in 2004.

Challenges facing law firms include: 

The legal market is growing more complex.

Clients have not increased spending in inflation
adjusted dollars

Clients have more choices and are more

The partner talent pool is anxious aging and not
necessarily loyal. 

The 3 sources of competitive advantage

Best in class  services and products

Offering the most efficient and/or  highest value work

A motivated, agile workforce that focuses
relentlessly on the clients.

The trends and issues outlined by Press apply to both the
broad legal market but also to the internal market within legal organizations.
The list of challenges facing law firms and sources of competitive advantage
are good starting points for the development of a strategic plan for law firms,
practice groups and administrative departments.

Aric Press can be reached