Kearns joined Bill Henderson at Maurer School of Law in the US to establish a new set of rules for mega law firms, the AM Law Daily reports.
The model includes reducing salaries, as well as increasing training for associates in response to pressure from clients over billing fees, competition concerns and the exit of experienced practitioners.
Kearns used an analogy of the 1,000-day life span of the turkey to illustrate the false sense of security felt by big law firms during the global financial crisis. The turkey, he explained, lives through its life unaware of the cataclysmic 1000th day approaching, even as it observes fellow turkeys dropping off one by one, he said.
The model also suggests basing bonus and promotion decisions on the performance of the law firm and the competencies of individuals.
Partners would see a drop in incomes and partnerships reduced to one level, under Kearns’ new blueprint for the profession.
Cost-cutting measures would include work-from-home options and locating the office in the suburbs as opposed to the city.
Firms would offer alternative fee options and will share fee risks with clients whenever possible.
As Kearns outlines the future model for the profession, some Australian firms are ahead, putting elements into practice. Optim Legal uses a satisfaction-based billing model. Meanwhile, lawyers don’t have billing targets and clients can pay on a sliding scale of an additional or minus 20 per cent of the fee.
Nick James, the co-founder of Optim Legal, said firms need to reconsider how they bill, for both their lawyer and the clients they service.
“In a big firm most often lawyers feel the pressure to bill as many hours as possible in order to rise up through the ranks,” said James
“In a big firm that really is a lose sum game. They do retain the client but almost all the drivers you face as a lawyer lead you to believe if it’s not a high billing file then you haven’t achieved,” James said.
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