Tuesday, June 23, 2015

          “New Law” Lawyers Fighting for Better Work-Life Balance

          New report by Professor Joan C. Williams and the Center for WorkLife Law reveals 5 new models of legal practice. 

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          "Entrepreneurship has hit the law, with entrepreneurs innovating a large variety of different models to offer not only a new value proposition for lawyers, but also a new value proposition for clients.” - Disruptive Innovation: New Models of Legal Practice.

          For twenty years, lawyers have complained about issues with work-life balance, but a report released today by Professor Joan C. Williams and the Center for WorkLife Law at UC Hastings proves that now they are actually doing something about it. 

          Disruptive Innovation: New Models of Legal Practice is likely the first comprehensive study on the rise of over 50 new business organizations created by lawyer-entrepreneurs who typically link better work-life balance for lawyers with lower overhead, and lower fees, for clients.

          Click here to download the complete report.

          “Something remarkable is happening in the legal profession,” writes Professor Williams and her co-authors, Jessica Lee and Aaron Platt. “Many lawyers have begun to found – and to join – businesses that organize legal practice in novel ways. The new ventures in legal entrepreneurship have been referred to as ‘New Law,’ a challenge to the behemoth Big Law firms which monopolized much of the legal industry for so long. We refer to the innovations as New Models Legal Practice, reflecting the novel business model they introduce, which hold the potential to disrupt established pathways in the practice of law.”

          The report identifies five distinct kinds of New Models being put in place by legal entrepreneurs:

          1. Secondment Firms place lawyers in house, typically to work at a client site either on a temporary basis or part-time. In some, male lawyers predominate and everyone works “full-time flex”—a 40 hour week structured around family responsibilities or other interests. In others, female lawyers predominate, and many lawyers work part-time.
          2. Law & Business Advice Companies combine legal advice with general business advice of the type traditionally provided by management consulting firms, and/or help clients with investment banking as well as legal needs.
          3. Law Firm Accordion Companies assemble networks of curated lawyers available to enable law firms to accordion up to meet short-term staffing needs. Typically these networks are women lawyers who work short part-time hours.
          4. Virtual Law Firms and Companies typically drive down overhead by having attorneys work from their own homes—and again dispense with a guaranteed salary, attorneys to work as little or as much as they wish
          5. Innovative Law Firms and Companies include the widest variety of different business models. The single most innovative is a company with a new monetization model—providing legal services in return for a monthly subscription fee—which allows attorneys to work in a sophisticated legal practice on an 8:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. schedule, little or no weekend work, and three weeks’ unplugged vacation per year.

          The report speaks specifically to four groups: clients, lawyers dissatisfied with law firms, lawyers who want to become entrepreneurs, and large law firms.

          “For decades, a market failure existed in the law. Many lawyers were dissatisfied with Big Law-but they saw no alternative if they wanted to remain in the profession,” notes the report. “That market failure is now over. Entrepreneurship has hit the law, with entrepreneurs innovating a large variety of different models to offer not only a new value proposition for lawyers, but also a new value proposition for clients.”

          MEDIA CONTACT:
          Alex A.G. Shapiro
          Director, Communications & Public Affairs
          UC Hastings College of the Law
          Office: (415) 581-8842
          Cell: (415) 813-9214
          Email: shapiroa@uchastings.edu 

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