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Book Review: Unbound - How Entrepreneurship Is Dramatically Transforming Legal Services Today

"The longer you wait, the farther -- and faster -- you will have to go just to catch up. You will be left behind in the ashes." The ongoing trend, described by the authors as a "fire," however, presents opportunities in the form of re-growth and regeneration to those who are innovative and entrepreneurial.

—— General Counsels' point of view ——

From 2001 up until the recession hit at the end of 2007, law firms saw double-digit growth in partner profits almost every year. As a result, they were unwilling to change their business model.

But the recession has inflicted a devastating and lasting blow to the legal sector and one of the highlight of the book is a series of interviews with leading general counsels, who explain the changing global landscape their companies operate in and the pressures that in-house lawyers face to reign in costs since the economic collapse.

"Until the current crisis, the legal profession had been able to charge a premium price for every task performed regardless of value". However,“[c]ompanies won’t continue to pay excessive rates for tasks that can be done somewhere else for much less.”

—— The forces shaping the legal sector ——

The authors believe that 7 major forces are affecting the legal industry and will profoundly and lastingly change its landscape:

(1) The pressure on law firms to be businesses as well as professional service providers. The demands on in-house counsels to provide services better, faster, and cheaper are forcing the legal industry as a whole to behave less members of a profession and more like businesses.

(2) An expansion in the ways that legal services are provided to the final client. Globalization is the force that will expand the ways in which legal services are provided to clients.

(3) New forms of organization of legal services. Tasks will become unbundled both as a result of business pressures but also as a result of globalization. “Unbundling is the ability for purchasers of legal services to separate tasks that have traditionally been done by one law firm in its entirety into discrete tasks that can be handled by less costly service providers.”

(4) Pressures on law firms to consolidate, as firms are required to operate on a global scale. This consolidation trend is the result of the new global scale of conducting business. Go global or go niche could become the new slogan of the legal industry.

(5) New ways for clients to know more about their options and compare legal services, giving rise to greater power to clients and pressures on price and quality performance. This could also be referred to as being part of the "self-help" trend. Clients know more about legal services than ever before, information is readily available, notably via the internet, and the legal industry is becoming more transparent.

(6) New categories of people who perform legal services as legal work is unbundled. The demographic composition of the legal work force and the attitudes of those working in this industry are changing.

(7) New ways to educate legal professionals through the growth of e-learning. Legal education needs to respond to these changing dynamics as law and paralegal schools prepare the next generation of legal professionals for the new ways legal services will be organized and delivered.

Thus change is on its way in the legal world... many of us have already experienced at least part of it!