Most pundits of the legal industry agree that the Great Recession of 2008-2009 changed the practice and the business of law forever. A number of widely read reports has identified these seemingly permanent changes as the “new normal.” The new normal has had a marked impact on the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) industry, but much of that impact comes directly from the new dynamics between law firms and their clients. ADR providers have been keen observers of these trends and are learning to react creatively and nimbly in order to stay relevant and financially healthy, and to continue to provide the best service possible.
Within the law firm environment, changes representing the new normal include a flattening, or decline, in demand for outside legal services, sustained pressure on billing rates, increased involvement by inside counsel, increased use of outsourced legal services and a higher use of alternative fee arrangements. Of course, these are just some of the shifts from the heady days of the pre-2008 legal industry, and they have indeed led to a new dynamic, where law firms must run themselves more like businesses. This requires a much more intensive and introspective look at how legal services are delivered and how to better serve a corporate clientele, who are operating under the same post-recession economic constraints.
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