FisherBroyles is a 283 attorneys law firm whose attorneys and staff are “distributed” or remote, a model which is increasingly attractive to attorneys. In their model, attorneys take home 80% of what they bill. In traditional law firms, the take home is often closer to 33%. In 2021, FisherBroyles top-paid attorney took home $6,742,540.
Managing partner, Michael Pierson, says that their hourly rates are often two-thirds what a traditional law firm would charge as there is no real estate cost.
It’s definitely working for the firm. In 2021, FisherBroyers revenue was up 30% to $136 versus $105 million in 2020.
While we may be happy to wave au revoir to 2021, one midnight does not change world circumstances. I think that the following four trends that are not likely to go away in 2022.
Our most popular blog post in 2021, by a factor of 10, was this post by our CEO, Seth Hallem, on the REvil vulnerability and the ensuing ransomware. Many IT and security people were kept busy over the July 4th weekend with the Kaseya VSA exploit. More law firms and more businesses overall were hit with ransomware than the public is aware of. At the risk of stating the obvious, this will only grow going forward.
Unicorns, IPOs, M & A, and healthy funding rounds were undefeated by the pandemic. We covered the capital infusion in #legaltech here.
Early in 2021, we learned from Thomson Reuters that Big and Mid sized Law had been very profitable in pandemic burdened 2020. Work from home meant more billable hours. Legal IT departments got attorney up and running from home in quite literally a weekend. In early 2021 the question was, would work from home end as quickly as it had begun? The profits lead one to conclude that it would not. The Delta and Omicron variants in 2021 ensured no quick ending.
Finally, in the fall of 2021 companies such as Apple and Big Law firms were gearing up for early January or February 2022 “return to the office” dates. Then Omicron swept through the globe. Now all bets are off for when, and if, companies will return to the office.
Some good, some not so good. Overall, we can be grateful for the healthy demand for legal services and that so much of legal work can be done remotely.
FOMO is nothing new in Silicon Valley VC-land. But it’s new and exciting in the world of what is broadly referred to as “legal tech.” Legal tech has been known for slow adoption and conservative processes, including mainly using software which is deployed on-premises at the law firm or business entity. In many cases this changed with the pandemic. The overnight necessity to support attorneys and staff working from home catalyzed adoption of cloud-hosted software throughout legal.
Of the many announcements from Clio today, three are:
Clio Payments: Jack Newton says, “…the most frequent point of friction in attorney-client relationships is collections.” Clio Payments is integrated with the Clio cloud-based practice management platform and syncs with accounting platforms, such as Quicken and Xero.
Clio Ventures:Clio will invest in “promising early stage companies and diverse founders” developing for the Clio platform. Clio has acquired a few companies, most recently Lawyaw, a YC-backed legal document automation company, which had been a Clio partner.
Clio 2021 Legal Trends Report: I look forward to this annual report, full of timely data. The PDF is a free download with registration. I highly recommend that you take a look at it.
I’m highlighting a few points which interested me. There is much more in the report.
First Key Take-away: Client expectations have changed
As we saw in the 2020 Legal Trends Report, the pandemic understandably accelerated clients’ willingness to work with a lawyer remotely. With Clio’s annual data collection, they were able to illustrate the change from 2018 to 2021.
The report further digs into this data by stage of engagement and type of remote communication medium.
Second Key Take-away: Remote services are only part of the picture
I’ve yet to see any survey of criteria on choosing a lawyer in which responsiveness was not the top criteria. Here, “Responsiveness to questions” leads “Price transparency” by a hair. No technology, no remote or in-person meeting capability, is likely to surpass the importance of responsiveness.
Third Key Take-away: Growing firms are really growing.
This data mirrors the data which we saw in early 2021 with respect to the blockbuster year that Big Law had in 2020. See the report for a deeper dive, for example, that growing firms are more likely to be using on-line payments, client portals, and CRM.
And there is more fun stuff!
Vicariously, I like to study the hourly rates by state and by practice.
Also, the KPI data on utilization, realization, and collection rates is eye-opening.
Is remote work merely a short-term necessity or will it have legs when it is again safe to work in the law firm office? As we head into one full year of remote work, I set out to see if there were data which would substantiate the direction of remote work.
What I learned paints a compelling rationale for remote work continuing. For some people, it might be for only one or two days a week. But the preference for a hybrid work model is clear.
There are two supporting dynamics:
The economics of remote work were positive in 2020. Law firms will likely make changes, for instance in leases, to capitalize on this going forward.
Attorneys made a positive adjustment to working from home and would like to retain some of that flexibility in the future.
A key law firm financial metric is Profitability per Equity Partner. The results show that for Big Law and mid-sized law firms profitability grew significantly in the 12 months leading up to November of 2020. In part this was due to law firm rate increases established in December 2019 and to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), both on the income side.
However, on the expense side, it is also due to law firms cutting overhead expenses in all but two categories, technology and Knowledge Management.
Both of the above charts are from a terrific resource, “2021 Report on the State of the Legal Market” by Thomson Reuters and Georgetown Law Center on Ethics and the Legal Profession. This report is chock full of data. I highly recommend reading it if you work in a law firm. And, as good attorneys say, “read the footnotes” for gems. You may also listen to the podcast, “Was the Pandemic a Tipping Point for Law Firms?” which is based on the report. Bob Ambrogi interviewed Jim Jones, Senior Fellow at Georgetown and Director of its Program on Trends in Law Practice. Mr. Jones is a contributor to the report. He adds interesting color to the report findings in this interview.
A funny thing happened while attorneys toiled from home. They appreciated the benefits. The greatest benefit to attorneys and staff is the time gained by not commuting. For time-keepers the extra hours per week can add up to several days per year of additional billable hours plus additional leisure time to boot.
Now 85% of attorneys want to work from home at least one day per week.
Working remotely became a neccessity almost overnight. But were firm architectures ready? Two common entry points to system hacks, social engineering and network vulnerabilities, threaten the security of remote working. In this session, Mobile Helix CEO and Chief Architect, Seth Hallem, will describe these vulnerabilities and propose practical and actionable ways to address these weaknesses using safe browsing, network proxies, authentication, authorization, and DLP. These mitigations apply to both desktop and mobile devices.
This is an ILTA Educational Webinar. It is free to members as well as to non-members as part of ILTA’s COVID-19 content. Non-members may register for a free login-in.
If our LINK app can help you to provide business continuity to your attorneys and staff in this unprecedented time, we want to get LINK in your hands.
We are extending this special offer:
Our free LINK app trial duration is now 90-days
Applies to trials which begin before August 31, 2020
You may add unlimited users
This will be a full production deployment including all of LINK’s security measures
LINK is best-suited for firms or departments of 30 users and up.
LINK’s server software is deployed on VMs on-prem, behind your firewall.
With LINK it’s easy and secure to work from tablets and smartphones. LINK is an encrypted, containerized mobile app, integrated with iManage, NetDocuments, email, Office 365, and the firm intranet. Lawyers and legal staff can review, annotate, compare, edit, and email documents with LINK.
We are happy to:
Tell you more about LINK
Show you a demo via Zoom
Describe the trial further
If I can help you, please email me at: maureen at mobilehelix dot com.
At Mobile Helix, all of our employees have been working from home for several years. We are fully up and running and supporting our customers. Employees may exercise the flexibility which they may need to balance new work and home circumstances.
We have encouraged our LINK app customers to add as many users as needed. We are fortunate to have wonderful, loyal customers. We are happy to help them respond quickly to enable their attorneys and staff to work from home.
We’ve been a NetDocuments partner for years. Recently, with Leonard Johnson heading up their partner ecosystem, NetDocuments have formalized their NetDocuments ISV Partner Program. We have used their REST APIs to give NetDocuments users access to their documents and their email in the same encrypted container app, LINK. NetDocuments is committed to the platform approach wherein both Independent Software Vendors and NetDocuments customers can develop solutions for optimizing their workflows using the REST APIs.
It’s easy to review, compare, annotate, file, and email documents all within our LINK app. LINK also offers a managed integration with the Microsoft Office apps for editing on an iPad or smartphone.
In the investigations of Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen, the FBI has retrieved messages from Signal, Telegram and WhatsApp. While there are weaknesses inherent in all of these apps, the question remains: What does a good data protection scheme look like?
A few days ago, the FBI revealed that Michael Cohen’s messages sent with Signal and WhatsApp
are now available as evidence in the on-going investigation into his
various dealings. While thousands of emails and documents have already
been recovered from Cohen’s devices, home, hotel room, and office, the
recovery of data from messaging apps that promise end-to-end encryption
is surprising. One would presume that end-to-end message encryption
should ensure that those messages are unrecoverable without assistance
from Mr. Cohen. However, clearly that is not the case.