Out with the old, in with the new – changing law firm models

Out with the old, in with the new – changing law firm models

By Nicole Bradick, Director of Business Development, Potomac Law Group

A recent survey by AdvanceLaw indicates that General Counsels are starting to move away from the most pedigreed firms, even for high-stakes work.  57% of GCs surveyed indicated that attorneys at leading firms were “less responsive” than lawyers at other firms.

Altman Weil reported that Chief Legal Officers are “trying to find a new, more cost-effective balance of resources” and are shifting work from law firms to in-house lawyers and lower-priced firms.

For like-minded corporate legal departments, the options are increasing as new competitors enter the market with innovative, efficient, and cost-effective models.  


The infamous pyramid model that took hold among large firms two centuries ago has remained essentially untouched until the last several years.

While this business structure has historically delivered steep profits to those who made partner, many firms operating under this business model have been plagued with shortsighted business planning.  The traditional partnership model provided little incentive for investing in technology, innovation, or any wholesale restructuring of the model that would reduce the partners’ profit.  In addition, these firms have struggled with how to reduce costs and adapt to the changing times as they have become hooked into legacy expenses like high associate salaries, long-term leases, and antiquated IT systems.

What’s happening now?  

Necessity breeds innovation.

When the 2008 recession hit, need for legal services grew due to greater government regulation and general litigiousness. Clients insisted on rate reductions (after years of steady rate hikes) and better efficiency in the provision of legal services.  Corporate legal departments increased internal hiring, which left outside law firms with less on their plates.

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About the author:

Nicole Bradick is Director of Business Development at Potomac Law Group, an innovative full-service law firm focused on providing high-end legal services to corporate legal department at a fraction of traditional law firm rates. In that role, Nicole is responsible for leading the marketing and business development activities of the firm. In addition to her work with Potomac Law Group, Nicole has launched and run a legal services business, Custom Counsel, matching freelance attorneys with solo practitioners and law firms. Nicole has received recognition as an ABA Journal “Legal Rebel” and regularly speaks and writes on issues related to the changing legal marketplace and legal innovation. Prior to shifting her focus to the business of law, Nicole was a litigator practicing primarily in the areas of federal appeals, education law and commercial litigation. She also served as a law clerk to Hon. James B. Haines, Jr. of the US Bankruptcy Court.