Although at opposite ends of the state with different clientele, communities and climates, the law firms of Genetos Lane & Buitendorp LLP in Merrillville and Farmer Scott Ozete Robinson & Schmitt LLP in Evansville are trying to do the same things. They are working to strengthen their business by being the right size and having the right mix of attorneys to best serve their markets.
Ditto for many other legal professionals across the country.
Kirsten Vasquez, incoming vice president of contingent and interim search at Major Lindsey & Africa, described the process as threading a needle. However, as difficult as it is, she said law firms must find the combination of size and personnel that will enable them to withstand the volatility that has been roiling the legal industry since the Great Recession and shows no signs of ending.
Major Lindsey & Africa, a recruitment and consulting firm for the legal industry, has recently released its 2018 Industry Outlook report, which outlines what law firms can expect in the new year. In short, the consultants maintain that while the populist upheaval that culminated with the election of Donald Trump has simmered down, the uncertainty that has been in the marketplace since the economic downturn has become the new normal. Law firms will remain under increasing pressure to keep costs low and productivity high.
Firms can survive the ongoing volatility in 2018, Vasquez said, by concentrating on doing what they already do well. “I think that is the recipe for a better year,” she said.
Vasquez said despite the volatility in the profession, being a lawyer is still a fulfilling job and the demand will always be there for top legal talent. For law firms, the challenge will be to attract and keep high-performing attorneys.
Looking at 2018, Major Lindsey & Africa expects a conservative increase in associate hiring and a continuation of the robust market for lateral hiring.
Maintaining a strong roster of attorneys will be especially important as the brisk pace of mergers and acquisitions within the legal industry is not likely to slow down, Vasquez said. “Law firms where top attorneys and their clients are at risk of leaving could find themselves negotiating the terms of a firm merger from a defensive position.”