Make no mistake, most of the firms handing out raises can more than afford it. Partners taking a couple grand haircut off their millions in profit share aren’t going to get a ton of sympathy around here. But for a lot of firms out there aiming to meet the needs of clients at a lower price point, the only ways to up the salary is to raise fees — alienating clients, or billing more hours — alienating associates.
Or are these the only options?
As the industry struggles to fit the square peg of exponential advancing tech capabilities into the round hole of the legal industry, lawyers on the frontlines have an opportunity to develop applications that can actually address the idiosyncrasies of practice. Because off-the-rack AI is only good at getting you sanctioned. Over the short to medium term, the future of technology enhanced lawyering is going to turn less on the technology than on the ability of lawyers to look inward and truly understand their own processes and how to apply existing technology in ways that actually serve clients.
And with lawyers bound to perform this work anyway, maybe it can provide a key revenue stream to cover those raises.
Jayaram Law, an intellectual property firm dedicated to representing creative people and companies, understands the value of designing something yourself. With that in mind, the firm works with a partner entity to develop tech tools that achieve results for clients, launching an AI-enhanced trademark search tool, melding tech and human review, going to market in the first half of 2024.
Yesterday, the firm announced that it set aside 15 percent of all of the stock of its partnered legal tech company for employees. The folks lending their intellectual energy and effort contributing to perfecting these tools can have access to a cut of this additional revenue stream.
Vivek Jayaram told me about the move that “in ten to fifteen years, the most successful lawyers will be the ones developing interesting tech” and that marrying the development strategy with employee compensation creates “upside for our whole team while keeping our rate structure intact.”
No one is expecting lawyers to become coders or anything, but attorneys are going to co-star in tech development over the next few years one way or another. They may as well get some compensation for the effort.
Joe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.