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Setting the next year’s billing rates follows a simple formula at most firms: last year’s rate plus a common percentage increase across all lawyer cohorts. A more disaggregated approach is needed. Specifically, firms should set higher percentage increases for senior lawyers and lower increases for junior lawyers. Why? Because, over the next 10 years, hours leverage (i.e., the number of associate hours per partner hour) at elite law firms will decline as more of the lower value-added work is handled not by junior lawyers but by enhanced technologies, in-house counsel, and alternative service providers. To maintain profitability, the margin that was earned on the displaced junior lawyer time has to be recouped through higher margins on senior lawyer time. Failure to increase senior billing rates differentially, and thus to rebalance the source of margin from junior to senior lawyer time, will result in a calamitous decline in profitability. It can be avoided if firms start now to gradually change their billing rate structures.
By Rob Mattern
A Look Back from the Future
If we look back at 2020 five years from now, what will we point to as the key actions that brought law firms back, and which of those are still in play.
By J. Mark Santiago
We are now into the sixth month of the COVID-19 pandemic and law firms across the country are entering the critical last quarter of the year. Historically, law firms collect between 30% and 50% of their annual revenues in the final 90 days of the calendar year. This year will be more challenging than prior years for a number of reasons.
By Lawrence L. Bell
The COVID 19/Pandemic/Shutdown has caused turmoil and upended benefit planning. The voluntary benefits platform has also been open to new rules and regulations. IRS guidelines support the uses of an actuarially based patent to provide benefits for selected employees on a tax efficient basis. Because this is not a qualified plan and it is not considered as deferred compensation by the IRS, the plan can be self-funded and the benefit amounts can vary on a participant-by-participant basis. In addition, because it follows the “top hat” rules, it does not require any form of ongoing or annual filings with any regulatory agencies.
By Dan Packel
Economists are increasingly gravitating to the concept of a “K-shaped” recovery following the steep plunge of the early days of the coronavirus crisis. With a slight tweak, that “K” may well serve as a useful depiction of law firm profitability in 2020: just add a horizontal third line at the center.