As Legal Field Adapts to Changing Times, Law Offices Face Challenges, Find Opportunities, New Report Reveals



    TORONTO, June 29 /CNW/ - Law offices are seeking new ways to deliver
legal services and grow revenue in the face of the most difficult business
environment in decades. Their success is tied closely to their specialty and
their ability to adapt, reports a just-released white paper from Robert Half
Legal, a legal staffing service specializing in lawyers, law clerks and other
highly skilled legal professionals.
    The report, Delivering Value-Added Legal Services in Challenging Times,
presents the latest research from the firm's ninth annual Future Law Office
project. Key findings include:

    
    -   Demand for legal services is growing in practice areas such as
        bankruptcy and restructuring, litigation, intellectual property,
        litigation and employment law.
    -   Experienced lawyers with a book of business are finding new
        employment opportunities, but recent law school graduates and
        generalists are encountering a competitive market.
    -   Many law firms face steep revenue goals, prompting them to rethink
        client service approaches.
    -   Alternative billing practices are gaining wider acceptance as clients
        ask for more flexible arrangements from their law firms.
    -   Corporate legal departments are limiting spending on outside counsel
        to the most strategic areas and reassessing the allocation of legal
        work.
    -   Increasingly, corporate legal departments are using project
        professionals to manage rising workloads and meet demand for their
        legal services.
    

    For its annual Future Law Office project, Robert Half Legal commissions
surveys of lawyers, interviews leading experts and conducts research to assess
how law offices might operate in the future. Complete results are available at
www.futurelawoffice.com.

    Challenges, Opportunities in Profession

    "The economic downturn has changed the landscape in the legal field,"
said Jonathan Veale, division director of Robert Half Legal. "Law firms with
practice groups that specialize in bankruptcy and restructuring, intellectual
property, litigation and employment law are seeing increased demand for legal
services. Other firms, meanwhile are seeking new strategies for improving
efficiencies and generating revenue in the coming year."
    Veale noted that job-seeking legal professionals face similar challenges.
"Seasoned associates with a ready-made roster of clients are being sought by
law firms expanding active practice areas. Recent law school graduates and
even tenured lawyers lacking in-demand expertise are facing a competitive job
market."

    Renewed Emphasis on Client Service

    To remain competitive and meet steep revenue goals, firms are rethinking
their approach to client service and intensifying their efforts to add value.
    Research conducted for the Future Law Office found that law offices have
pursued various strategies for enhancing their team's focus on client service.
Lawyers surveyed by Robert Half Legal said the most effective methods for
improving service levels include mentoring and/or coaching (91 per cent),
technology training (87 per cent), business development training (83 per
cent), leadership training (63 per cent) and continuing legal education (2 per
cent).
    "Corporate clients are looking to their law firms for enhanced services
to assist them in addressing challenging business matters," said Veale. "Sound
strategic guidance will help the company position themselves for future
business growth and avoid potential risks in the interim."
    Veale added that cost-conscious clients increasingly expect their law
firms to offer flexible billing arrangements such as flat fees, monthly
retainers, blended rates, contingency fees and rate caps.

    Legal Departments Weigh Costs, Benefits of Outside Counsel

    The economy has prompted corporate legal departments in virtually every
industry to re-evaluate their budgets and, in some cases, modify their use of
outside counsel.
    Thirty-seven per cent of in-house lawyers surveyed by Robert Half Legal
plan to decrease their work with outside counsel in the next 12 months while
40 per cent forecast no change. Nineteen per cent plan to increase their work
with outside firms.
    "In the face of increased business challenges and fewer resources,
in-house counsel is concerned about maintaining high-quality service to their
organizations," said Veale. "Legal departments are reevaluating work
allocations and often turning to outside expertise to address heavier
workloads and strategic initiatives."
    Veale noted that many corporate legal departments are managing rising
workloads by using interim contract professionals to immediately access the
specialized expertise they need for key cases and projects while staying
within budget limitations.
    To order a complimentary copy of the complete white paper, or for more
information on the Future Law Office project, please visit
www.futurelawoffice.com.

    About Robert Half Legal

    Robert Half Legal provides law firms and corporate legal departments with
project and full-time professionals, including lawyers, law clerks and legal
support personnel. Robert Half Legal offers online job search services at
www.roberthalflegal.com.





For further information:

For further information: Kristie Perrotte, (416) 350-2330,
kristie.perrotte@rhi.com


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