This is an interesting take by Dr Beaton on the response of BigLaw firms to the challenges their business model is facing in the 21st century.
Adopting a partial flexible lawyer model is just tinkering around the edges, in my view. I doubt BigLaw firms are yet believing there's a "perfect storm" out there about to hit them nor are they ready to embrace wholesale change.
NewLaw firms such as Halebury are leading the way forward.
Beaton recommended focusing on changes to labour first because these are possible to complete in a short period of time and are less likely to bring a negative return. “Start with a return that is likely to be positive and that's going to be in labour. And once you've got the appetite and the recognition [then] it will grow.” The “very high fixed costs” of BigLaw are unsustainable in the emerging market, according to Beaton. “These high fixed costs are causing stress in an environment where clients are forcing the price down." However, many of these costs – such as lavish offices – are difficult to adjust in the short term. “Getting out of a fixed cost lease can take you five to ten years. Converting to a paperless office, for example, can take five years and be quite costly.”