Sunday, 15 January 2012

Tony Williams

So the Golden Age of legal services is over?  I had lunch with Tony Williams this week, formerly managing partner of Clifford Chance and worldwide managing partner of Andersen legal, now principal of Jomati Consulting, the leading international management consultancy specialising in the legal profession.  Well, we all knew 2012 was going to be another challenging year, but it's sobering to hear Tony's thoughts on how the profession is unlikely ever to return to the levels enjoyed in the 'Golden Age', even come the recovery.

Tony talked to me about a report Jomati is due to publish later this month. After the Golden Age : The New Legal Era.  Here he defines the Golden Age as the period from the mid-1980s up to the crisis of 2008, when partner profits were typically rising by more than 10% year on year, lawyer fee rates were going up regularly without being questioned by clients and firms were rarely challenged about what they billed and how.  Of course this all changed with the crunch in 2008 and Tony's view is that there has since been a fundamental shift from "compliant client to active and questioning client" that has changed the marketplace forever.

"Anyone not convinced we really are entering a new era, who still assumes we will soon roll back to where we were in 2007, needs to look at the facts.  To my mind it's clear on the evidence there's no turning back."

He cites a number of factors: first, that in-house lawyers are more sophisticated buyers of legal services, far more aware of inefficient working in their law firm suppliers and ready to challenge; second, an increasing insistence on foxed fees - the death throes of the hourly rate has of course been widely reported elsewhere - and an attitude that law firms should share more of the risk; and in addition to this pressure on fees, associates and non-legal staff continuing to demand pay rises and bonuses which firms need to fund somehow if they want to avoid losing talent to rivals; then there's the threat of competition in the guise of new forms of production, ranging from the Legal Process Outsourcers to the online document producers, also undermining fee levels at the commoditised end of the market, with a knock-on effect on mid-level work.  The list goes on...

But it's not all bad news.  Tony believes that firms prepared to grasp how the game has changed and innovate will find new, perhaps even better, ways to prosper.  In particular he believes that for many, embracing globalisation will be key to growing revenues and profits.

"Those that adapt may then consider that moving out of the Golden age was not a negative step, just the beginning of something new."

To receive a copy of After the Golden Age: The New Legal Era, the Jomati report which publishes later this month, contact


We love the new-look Lawyer magazine!   And what a bold move!  the weekly print edition is now devoted entirely to analysis features and comment, with breaking news the preserve of the website,  A confident stride forward from a publication renowned for its strength in breaking news, that is prepared to face up to the changing reality of how news is consumed in the modern day and adapt accordingly. 
We love their new sections The Notebook, (where news pages used to be), Judgment Call (a litigation round-up), and a double-page spread now devoted to Opinions.  Click here for a whistle-stop tour from editor Cat Griffiths herself.
And they've been cute about what stories work best in which medium: online makes total sense for breaking news, given consumers are now used to the speed of Twitter and other more immediate news sources; and as for more in-depth stories, as Cat says, "the big issues of the day are best serviced analytically and at length - it's what print does best".
Nice One!
Kysen's first innovation of the year is the creation of our first app: a PR reporting tool for clients on the run, who are less available for formal catch-ups on their accounts.  Created quite a flurry of excitement in our office this week.

So far we have developed our first prototype for one particular firm.  Next we will be showing it to our clients and friends asking for feedback, to see whether/how it could add something useful to other firms' accounts.

An exciting start to 2012!

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