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The impact on the global economy of the financial services meltdown in 2008 and the resulting “Great Recession” can only be described as far reaching. All industries, including the legal services industry, were affected, with the pressures for cost containment causing profound disruption and changes in virtually every segment of the legal services market.
In the wake of the Great Recession, corporate legal departments saw intensified pressure not only to do more with less, but also to experiment with new approaches for acquiring and delivering legal services. This dynamic, in turn, affected large law firms dramatically, with clients now sending less work to them and placing greater constraints on how that work gets done and billed for. In turn, law firms have undergone significant consolidation and have tightened their hiring practices dramatically.
Law schools, who train the lawyers of the future, likewise felt the impact. With reduced law firm hiring, law school graduates saw reduced demand for their services, all while tuitions and debt levels continued to rise. Law school applications, not surprisingly, plummeted.
In the face of (and because of) these changes, certain segments of the legal services industry continue to grow. Alternative legal service providers, such as eDiscovery vendors and Legal Process Outsourcers (“LPOs”), have prospered during this period, as have Legal Operations groups within corporate legal departments.
Three years ago, Colorado Law launched an initiative to analyze these trends and to better define the skills and competencies that lawyers require to deliver value to clients in the current era. As part of this initiative, Colorado Law regularly convenes roundtables where leaders from all segments of the legal services industry, including managing partners, general counsel, alternative legal service provider CEOs, and academics share their observations of the state of the industry and their thoughts as to where things are headed.