The View From London: Building the law firm of the 21st Century

While it is difficult to know exactly what the future will bring, Eversheds Chief
Executive David Gray believes the next ten years will see important challenges
to the lawyer-client

Aunque es difí­cil
determinar con
precisión el futuro de
los despachos de
abogados, el consejero
delegado de
Eversheds, David Gray,
cree que los próximos
diez años traerán
importantes retos en la
relación abogadocliente.

Una de las funciones
principales de David
Gray es la de asesorar
la manera en la que
un bufete debe
prepararse para
afrontar las
necesidades de sus
clientes, de sus
empleados y de la

Segíºn Gray, en este
momento, cada área
de práctica está
identificando una serie
de desafí­os,desde la
globalización del
negocio, el valor
añadido exigido cada
vez más por los
clientes, la lucha por
fichar nuevos talentos,
la necesidad de actuar
como abogados
responsables, hasta la
bíºsqueda del equilibrio
entre vida laboral y
vida personal. Estos
asuntos y más
deberán abordarse con
el avance del presente

An important element of my role is
to assess how our law firm will
need to change to meet the needs
of our clients, our people and
society in the future. To understand what
steps Eversheds needs to take now to ensure
that we don't get left behind.

Planning ahead has always been a part of
the way we do things at Eversheds. A quick
look over our shoulders tells us that many
things have changed in the legal world (and
the world as a whole) over the past few
years and none of us can expect anything
different from the decades ahead.

At the moment every legal practice is
facing up to a series of tough challenges. The
globalisation of business, the demand for
greater value from clients, the struggle for
talent, the need to be responsible citizens,
the desire for greater balance in our working
lives: these issues and more all need to be
tackled as the current century progresses.

Earlier this year Eversheds commissioned
a report into the future of the legal
profession, drawing on the opinions of
partners at leading international law firms,
general counsel, legal directors and finance
directors at major investment banks and
leading UK companies.

Of course no one can fully predict the
future but, based on what our recipients
have been telling us, we can see some
definite trends for the next ten years.

When it comes to costs and billing we see
that the future law firm is more likely to
share risks with its clients. Over half (55%)
of in-house counsel did not believe that the
current growth of law firm fees is
sustainable. Transparency will also be an
issue with e-billing and value billing playing
a role in providing this. Controlling costs in
general will be treated more seriously than it
currently is amongst many major firms – just
over half (57%) of in-house counsel
mentioned these challenges.

However, the vast majority of both
partners (82%) and clients (86%) believe that
the hourly rate will be alive and well in ten
years time. This is despite the fact that
partners and clients alike do not feel it is
necessarily the most effective way to bill or
to add value.

The predicted transformation of legal
services through technology is not expected
to impact the elite end of the profession. The
majority (70%) of partners did not wish to be
involved in commoditised legal businesses
although there was almost unanimous
agreement that this trend was significant in
the market.

However, half the clients (50%) thought
that commoditisation and standardisation
could add value and help in controlling
costs but as yet very few (19%) had direct
experience of commoditised services. We
believe there will still be a role for premium,
cutting edge advice as new areas of the
business and the law open up.

There is no doubt from the findings of the
report, that lawyers will need to become
more commercial, going beyond the delivery
of black letter law by adding value as
business consultants and not just acting as
legal advisers. Lawyers will and should
work in closer partnership with in-house
clients and align their services to match the
individual needs of each organisation.

The report suggests that most law firms
still can't see an end to the long hours
culture, with a compromised work–life
balance persisting in many firms, although
solutions to this based on technology may
well help to ease the burden.

At Eversheds
we do believe that a better work–life balance
for lawyers is achievable and continue to
strive to achieve it.

The results in this report are enlightening
and sometimes unexpected, and present a
challenge both to us and to our competitors
to really start thinking about what our
clients want and not just what we want to
give them.

Whatever the issues we face, and
whatever the 21st Century law firm
becomes, the legal profession is going to
continue to be a fascinating place to work.

David Gray is the London-based Chief Executive
of international law firm Eversheds.

His firm is
one of over 40 international and local law firms
contributing to Iberian Lawyer's series of
debates, Building The Law Firm of the 21st
Century, sponsored by BlackBerry.

He can be
contacted at