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SEVEN DECISIONS FOR LAW FIRMS FACING UP TO THE DOWNTURN
NEW YORK (November 12, 2009) – This month, The American Lawyer unveils the results of its fourteenth annual survey of technology directors at the nation’s largest law and the news is not good for clients or industry vendors. One-third of the 110 Am Law 200 firms participating in the survey reported that their capital budgets were down more than 10 percent this year. Staffing levels and salaries have taken hits, and equipment purchases and software upgrades have been deferred. And, in this month’s “In-House” column, editor in chief Aric Press challenges law firms to run their private partnerships as institutions built for the long run and outlines seven key issues partners must face in making that happen. For these stories, visit www.americanlawyer.com.
This year’s Am Law Tech Survey reveals that the recession is forcing firms to look at new technologies that are more nimble and cost-effective. Law firms have never been known for embracing cutting-edge gear or still-in-progress technologies, but it appears that budget constraints and demands for efficiency are finally prodding firms to rethink how they do things.
Firms are extending their use of technologies directly tied to cost-savings, such as videoconferencing, now widely used to reduce travel expenses, particularly for internal meetings. Indeed, 60 percent of firms said their primary use of videoconferencing was communications with colleagues in U.S. offices, and 21 percent said it was for communicating with staff in branches abroad. New technologies which reduce cost and support requirements are also winners. For example, virtualization–which lets IT departments take a server used to run one application and run multiple applications on it– is being implemented by a whopping 98 percent of respondents.
Meanwhile, firms continue to push vendors for discounts and have, in many cases, forced suppliers to retrench on prices.
In his column, Press contends that a difficult year is about to get harder for many firms and cites commitments made by the best-managed firms in key areas, including adoption of new talent models for hiring, promoting and compensating associates; mining technology for tangible client advantages; expanding face-to-face discussions with clients; and making better use of “non-lawyers” – professional managers, marketers and analysts – to help run the business.
Says Press, “None [of these decisions] are easy or allow for quick or obvious judgments. All require choices and real investments. All they offer is a promise of a better tomorrow.”
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