Lawyers & Legal Professionals Looking Ahead to 2010

Send us your thoughts, in a handful of lines, looking ahead to 2010…

That’s what we’ve been asking the lawyers and legal professionals in our circle. And here are some of the answers – disparate thoughts from a disparate mix: our friends, the people we follow with interest online, the professionals using JD Supra.

We’ll include others as they come in. (And if you have something to add, please send me a note. I’ll update through the new year.)

Lawyers & Legal Professionals Looking Ahead to 2010…

Construction attorney Chris Hill:

Social Media will take off for lawyers. I had great success in 2009 with this and met many clients attorneys and other professionals who will be great friends and business contacts. The Construction landscape will focus on money even more than in the past and attorneys must take that into account when talking about risk, green building or any other area of business advising. Contractors like business decisions, we need to help them make the right ones.

Gerry Riskin, founder, Edge International:

I predicted Doom and Gloom in the legal profession in a blog post in August of 2007.  I did not say that that “Doom and Gloom” was an “appropriate” response to economic challenges.  2010 is a year to conquer adversity by increasing market share, growing margin and therefore profit, even in the face of falling demand. Our clients will accomplish this through stronger leadership: concentrating on opportunity instead of solving problems.

IP strategist, attorney Jackie Hutter:

Next year will be a watershed year for lawyers and law firms.  Those who understand that clients will be looking for new models for purchasing legal services–and not just alternative or discounted hourly rates–will be poised to capture business from more their more conservative peers.  Those who ignore these changing times may find life rather “interesting.”

Steve Matthews, principal, Stem Legal:

The mobile web made some major inroads in 2009, but I expect it to become a priority in 2010. By year’s end, expect to be tired of iPhone application launches from the legal industry – both from vendors and law firms. I also expect to see an increase in law firms launching mobile versions of their website, and mobile friendly extranets.

Agriculture and Environmental Lawyer Cari Rincker:

I hung my own shingle a few months ago here in NYC and looking forward to my first full year as a solo.  In 2010, I am going to continue to network and build my agriculture law practice through social media like JD Supra, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and my blog and get more involved in the legal community in the tri-state area. I hope that 2010 is a prosperous year for
the economy and Rincker Law, PLLC!

Business and real estate attorney Richard Vetstein:

2010 will be the year of the next generation of residential real estate closing services. Market leaders will utilize cutting edge web-based transaction management portals so lenders, realtors, buyers, and sellers can communicate with each other and view the transaction status and documents on a real time basis. The year will also hopefully see the increased adoption of electronic closing and electronic recording capabilities. Real estate attorneys will also fully embrace the power of internet marketing, blogging and social media in their marketing plans.

Larry Port at Rocket Matter:

We must learn to be responsibly connected.  It’s time for us to recognize the incredible power that Internet tools give us, but more importantly, when to apply them.  Hopefully in  2010 professionals will start thinking more critically about Internet technologies that now inform all aspects of our lives, and learn to connect, and disconnect, in a responsible way.

IP attorney Stephen Nipper:

The best book I read in 2009 was Seth Godin’s “The Dip.”  If you haven’t read it, DO. In “The Dip,” Godin mentions the following passage from the Declaration of Independence: 

…all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

My challenge to my fellow attorneys is this:  if there is an “evil” you are suffering (or see others suffering), whether that “evil” be personal, professional, or societal, do something about it.  Maybe that means fixing broken relationships.  Maybe that means ending other relationships.  Maybe that means righting a wrong.  Whatever it means to you, and no matter how uncomfortable it is in the short term, deal with it.  Let 2010 be the year that you started enjoying life again.

Insurance defense & civil litigation attorney Dan Cummins:

In 2010, never underestimate the power of just being nice.  It can disarm, and even befuddle, your opponents like no other means.  The extensions of professional courtesies will also only serve to improve the image of attorneys and the bar as a whole.

Business development advisor Larry Bodine:

2010 will bring a lot of changes in the way law firms conduct commerce with clients. Client still was rate cuts and law firms want to increase rates, so something has to give. The ACC Value Challenge is an example of the sea change that’s occurred. Smart law firms will productize their services, such as conducting a liability audit of a company for a flat fee. Survivors will also offer alternative fees of all flavors to land and keep a client. Law firms will offer private CLE courses to clients, and broadcast webinars to give that “added value” all clients want.  And any lawyer who becomes a student of his client’s business and helps them increase their bottom line will have a client for life.

Nursing home abuse attorney Jonathan Rosenfeld:

There is no magic bullet when it comes to business generation via the Internet … I wish. When it comes to building an online presence, the same old-school rules apply: work, knowledge, integrity and more work.

Freelance attorney, legal researcher, & writer Donna Seyle:

2010 will be a year when:
1. solos and small firms will really assimilate legal tech as cost-effective & efficiency practice models;
2. a variety of new law firm pricing models will proliferate as clients become more sophisticated and lawyers find satisfaction in getting out from under the pressure of the billable hour;
3. judicial decisions and other regulations will emerge to address the ethical implications of the use of social networking information in legal matters;
4. social media sites will continue to integrate their functions to consolidate various funnels of information (my personal greatest wish!)

Trademark & business lawyer (and spice merchant) Venkat Balasubramani:

To the always battling social media cheerleaders and curmudgeonly lawyers: your antics are entertaining, but you’re probably both misguided.  While the curmudgeonly lawyers are correct that social media doesn’t remove the need for quality legal work and hard work, social media will undeniably change the way we interact and how the legal profession is practiced.  The social media cheerleaders are probably correct that there’s some sort of revolution under way, but it will not happen as quickly as anyone hopes.There will always be a need for good judgment, quality writing and advocacy.  Social media can never replace this.

Author; legal consultant; law practice management expert, Patrick McKenna:

In August of 2008, I sent out a client advisory entitled Managing In a Prolonged Downturn that predicted: “that for the next five years, every time you think it’s safe to get up and dust yourself off from this downturn, every time you feel like you’ve endured the worst of it, another piece of news is going to come along to freshly bludgeon you. This time the economic slowdown is going to be a lot different and, in many ways, a hell of a lot tougher.” In that paper I identified, in detail, 12 danger signs that when considered collectively could indicate that this recession may be far more severe and prolonged than one might expect.

I was mindful then, as I am now, that I may be labeled as some kind of doom-monger, but took some comfort in the thanks I received from a number of my clients.  Unfortunately I remain of view that 2010 will be just as difficult (if not more so by the second half) as 2009 has been for our profession, and it may be an unpleasant reality that even more lawyer lay-offs will be necessary.

I am an optimist at heart and am confident that things will eventually get better; but for the next 12 months prudent fiscal policy both within your professional firms and within your personal lives is paramount.

Joshua Gilliland, Professional Development Manager, D4 LLC

Solo practitioners to lawyers from mega-firms must know what they are talking about. Courts are not tolerating arguments such as “I’d don’t know what you mean by ‘native file'” or failed initial disclosures.  2010 is the year to know what you are doing.

Allison Shields, Legal Ease Consulting:

My wish for lawyers in 2010 is that they see the New Year as an opportunity to embrace innovation – to differentiate themselves, provide exceptional service to clients and change the way they practice law; doing things in a new way can help them boost their practice to a new level even before the economy turns around.

Entertainment, trademark, & copyright lawyer Tamera Bennett:

My success is not measured by my number of “fans” or “tweets,” but by the satisfaction I receive in providing quality work to appreciative clients. Wishing blessings to you and yours for the holidays and 2010.

Legal marketing consultant Rafi Arbel:

Small and medium firms will continue to gain market share from large law. There will be an unprecedented opportunity for these firms to target corporate clients looking for high-quality, cost-effective counsel. It is more important than ever for firms of all sizes to redouble their marketing efforts, both online and off, to capitalize on these opportunities and strengthen their relationships with their most profitable clients.

ICBC claims attorney Erik Magraken:

I predict many more lawyers getting engaged in social media marketing over the next year, some effectively, and many others unsuccessfully.  My advice to any lawyers starting in this endeavor is that it is worthwhile but there are no shortcuts. With commitment and effort an effective niche can be carved out. Lazy shortcuts and spamming will not work in the long-run and will mortgage your credibility.

Estate planning attorney Randy Spiro:

Discretionary areas of the law (such as mine, estate planning) have been slow in 2008 and 2009. But that just means there is pent up demand for 2010.

Writer, editor, legal consultant Jordan Furlong:

Lawyers’ previously iron grip on the legal services marketplace will continue to loosen in 2010: clients will exercise more influence over how legal tasks are performed, delivered and sold. More lawyers will adopt alternative fee arrangements, which will require them to fundamentally reconsider how they carry out their work and control their costs — and that will be the real turning point for the profession.

Niki Black; attorney; founder, lawtech Talk; legal technology author:

2010 will be the year that: 1) lawyers using online networking, “intermedia”, will become commonplace, and 2) cloud computing will gain greater acceptance in the legal field, especially as cloud computing providers adapt to and respond to attorney’s data confidentiality and security concerns.

Technology/contracts/intellectual property/literary lawyer Dana Newman:

The recession created an opportunity to re-examine the conventional legal services model, especially the inefficiency of the Big Law structure. Clients want experienced lawyers, but at a reasonable price. I think there is going to be more demand for cost-effective, flexible, client-focused legal services offering highly skilled lawyers available to work on a project or as-needed basis.

Bruce Carton, Securities Docket:

The SEC has its new management firmly in place now, and has had time to get its restructuring finalized in the Enforcement Division. I believe that these points, combined with a significant boost in 2010 funding and intense public pressure for the SEC to show it is doing its job, will result in an unprecedented amount of securities enforcement activity in 2010.

Business development and legal consultant; 22 Tweets founder, Lance Godard:

2010 is the year in which lawyers and legal professionals must free themselves from the legacy of Marshall McLuhan and see social media for what it really is: the medium and not the message. Why? Because worrying if they’re doing social networking right prevents them from innovating in the areas most valuable to their clients: delivery of service, billing, practice management, etc. The legal profession probably won’t look all that different from that which we knew before the economic crisis — BigLaw will get bigger, GlobalLaw will get more global, associate salary wars will begin anew when the money to do so becomes available — but the lawyers able to determine how their clients define value, transform their practices to deliver that value, and articulate that value in communications and actions alike are those who will be the most successful in 2010.

Bankruptcy attorney Christine Wilton:

In 2010 Bankruptcy will be the new Black!

Doug Jasinski, principal and founder of Skunkworks Creative Group:

Identify the legal work you are most passionate about. Chances are it’s complex, and either emerging or enduring.  Pursue more of that complex work both because it will make you happier and because routine work done in routine ways will increasingly be in jeopardy

Ed Poll, principal, LawBiz Management:

Thrive in the new era.

As we wake up from the recent financial crises, we will dust ourselves off and look to the future. Arising from a bunker mentality, lawyers will see the opportunity to help many clients deal with pent-up demand, postponed divorces, new merger opportunities and more complex compliance requirements, among other new legal matters facing both Corporate America and “Main Street Joe.” Lawyers who understand their clients needs and wants will thrive in

Martha Sperry, principal, Advantage Advocates:

My prediction for 2010 is that developers will be emphasizing mobile platforms and applications, as well as focusing on manipulating the incredible flow of content into a more efficient, personalized and relevant experience. Social engagement on the web will become more commonplace and less scary for the mainstream, for personal and professional purposes. My hope is that the discussion surrounding web presence and e-networking becomes less about the ‘why’ and more about the ‘how’ and my tip for engagement is to remain authentic and willing to further the conversation at all times.

Michael Mintz, Community Manager Martindale Hubbell Connected

Lawyers will find ways of using social media tools to replace time spent in email.  Location based services like augmented reality will open up a whole can of legal issues for tech savvy lawyers and academics to pounce on.  More law firms will switch to flat rate billing with ratchet up clauses for complexity of work.  We will see a decline in the growth of general social media networks and an increase in specialized communities, which cater to the specific needs of professionals.  We will see litigation over trade secrets leaked through cloud computing.

Employment & Family Lawyer Garry Wise:

2009 was the year the legal profession began to truly “get” what social media is all about. An interesting (and largely unanticipated) spin-off of this trend has been the increasing prominence of law bloggers as presenters in accredited CLE programs. In this sense, blawging truly came of age in the last twelve months.
With this in mind, my quick tip for my fellow advocates in 2010: do not underestimate social media as a legitimate springboard for professional opportunity, broadened horizons – and much resulting personal satisfaction.

Jayne Navarre, principal,

I never really appreciated the pressure a lawyer faces in creating a revenue stream until I started my own marketing firm and felt it first hand. It’s one thing to understand it in theory or have others tell you how to do it. It’s quite another to have to face your fears and keep on doing it even when you don’t feel like it. But, once you have a few successes, confidence fuels the fire and the process is really amazing and exciting. 
“There’s always been a social element for lawyers who are intent on developing their business. Social technologies give them more freedom to do what they’ve always done–gain exposure, develop relationships, build trust, opinionate, attend “parties,” and join conversations–in more places, any time of day or night. There are no geographic borders, time zones, or transportation issues; what’s not to like?

Clio founder Jack Newton:

If you survived 2009, you can survive anything.

And a few more from our pal, Venkat Balasubramani:

To clients: the Internet may revolutionalize the legal profession and your relationship with lawyers, but don’t get your hopes up. Dealing with your lawyer will still be similar to dealing with your mechanic, plumber, or dentist. It will never be something you describe as “fun,” and will always require a leap of faith.

To Twitter (and other social media networks and sites): I worry about you.

To everyone else: get outside and smell the fresh air. There’s much more interesting stuff going on outside the off
ice and away from the computer screen.

We’ll be adding additional thoughts from your colleagues, peers, and friends as they come in. Got a few thoughts of your own to share? Drop me a line and I’ll add them.

As above from Venkat, we hope you enjoy a few moments away from the screen and office during this holiday season.

Warm year-end wishes from all of us at JD Supra to you!