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Industry Outlook: Legal
Utah’s legal industry is stronger than ever, with many firms and lawyers receiving national acclaim. Our group of leading lawyers discusses trends impacting the industry, such as changes in business structure, including the partnership track and billing methods, the influx of recent graduates, social media and other technology challenges, and the ever-increasing need for pro bono work.
We’d like to give a special thank you to Curtis Jensen, managing shareholder at Snow Jensen & Reece and president of the Utah State Bar, for moderating the discussion.
Jefferson Gross, Burbidge Mitchell & Gross; Andrew Morse, Snow Christensen & Martineau; Art Berger, Ray Quinney & Nebeker; Brian Hulse, Snell & Wilmer; Rand Bateman, Bateman IP; Lynn Davies, Richards Brandt Miller & Nelson; Daniel Jensen, Parr Brown Gee & Loveless; Scott Young, Stoel Rives; Justin Scott, Babcock Scott & Babcock; Eric Maxfield, Holland & Hart; Glenn Bronson, Prince Yeates & Geldzahler; Bill Fillmore, Fillmore Spencer
Steve Clyde, Clyde Snow & Sessions; Keven Rowe, Jones Waldo; Lorin Barker, Kirton McConkie; Kevin Pinegar, Durham Jones & Pinegar; Stephen Owens, Epperson & Owens; Kevin Anderson, Fabian; Hal Pos, Parsons Behle & Latimer; Annette Jarvis, Dorsey & Whitney; Ellen Maycock, Kruse Landa Maycock & Ricks; Brian Burnett, Callister Nebeker & McCullough; Brandon Roper, Austin Rapp & Hardman; Curtis Jensen,Utah State Bar / Snow Jensen & Reece
Christian Clinger, Clinger Lee Clinger; Jason McNeill, Magleby & Greenwood; Brent Lorimer, Workman Nydegger; Dickson Burton, TraskBritt; Cathy Larson, Strong & Hanni; Mark Gaylord, Ballard Spahr
In what areas are you seeing growth in your local firms? Is there a change in dynamics?
LARSON: The paradigm is changing with the typical law firm, because you would expect to see a pyramid-type model with equity shareholders at the top and associates at the bottom of that pyramid. Now it’s changing to more of a diamond model, with not only equity shareholders but non-equity shareholders and other categories of shareholders, as well as the complement of associates.
So we’re seeing, in our firm and other firms of like size and practice, those kinds of changes, where it’s no longer that you’re somewhere for seven or eight years, then you’re an equity shareholder. There are now other categories to account for differences in attorneys. Some attorneys are not ready to be an equity shareholder. Some attorneys are not desirous to be an equity shareholder.
POS: We continue to try to expand our footprint within our existing markets. We’ve added some new practice areas. The biggest change for us in terms of trying to deliver cost-effective legal service is this past year we’ve hired a number of non-partnership-track lawyers. We are still committed to bringing in young associates who are on partnership tracks, but we’ve brought in a number of non-partnership-track associates, some contract lawyers, some lawyers and paralegals that are secondary to our clients. It’s a way for us to enhance our revenues, but at the same time keep our costs to our clients down.
BARKER: For a few years we slowed down our associate hiring. We’ve picked that back up, and now we’re back where we were. But we have a whole new category of lawyers as well—whether you call them non-equity or whatever. We call them staff attorneys. We’re not quite sure how to deal with them. I’m curious how many other firms are doing the same. We’re back up to hiring our usual number of associates, but we have now eight or nine staff attorneys and are trying to figure out exactly where they fit in. It’s a little tricky.
How are you dealing with the generational shift in your hiring? How are you addressing their interests to satisfy them and have them fit in this traditional model, but give them the latitude and the freedom that they want?
GAYLORD: We have a huge real estate practice in Salt Lake and across the country, and what we do with many of our associates, particularly in real estate, is they are all on a part-time basis, whether working either 80 or 75 percent, to give them the ability to have a family life and whatever opportunities they want to exercise. We have found that very successful in keeping good associates who ultimately elevate to partnership based on a part-time level. They’re compensated a little bit differently because of that part-time level, but that’s a way of keeping and dealing with it.
In terms of technology, the generation has changed. A lot of people around the table, we go into an office and talk to our associates, give them an assignment. But those in Generation X respond to us differently. They like responding with a text or an email. They don’t want to respond verbalizing it, which can be a problem.