OWN THE MARKET - Back in September, John Stewart (not that one… John with an “h”… the Florida Bar Association’s immediate past president) made a prediction. He told Law.com’s Dylan Jackson that, if Florida were to follow Utah and Arizona in loosening its law firm ownership rules, the move would “change the marketplace on a national scale.” We may now get the chance to see if this prophecy comes true. Stewart is heading up the Special Committee to Improve the Delivery of Legal Services, which was formed by Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady for the express purpose of examining how the legal needs of Florida’s lower- and middle-income residents, as well as its small businesses, could be better served by the state’s legal industry. As Law.com’s Dan Packel reports, the 10-member committee proposed earlier this week that the state Supreme Court authorize what it called a “Law Practice Innovation Laboratory,” which would allow new legal businesses and existing law firms to experiment with new business models. The committee also recommended a change to state ethics rules that would allow all firms, including those that don’t enter the laboratory, to offer minority ownership stakes to nonlawyers whose work supports the mission of the law firm.
TIME IS (EVEN MORE) MONEY - In 2020, hourly rates for outside counsel not only increased, but increased more than they had in previous years, Law.com’s Hugo Guzman reports. The 2021 Enterprise Legal Management Trends Report, released yesterday by LexisNexis CounselLink, found that partner hourly rates in 2020 were 3.5% higher than 2019 rates, on average. That jump is slightly bigger than the 3.3% increase in partner hourly rates from 2018 to 2019, a finding the report’s author, Kris Satkunas, said surprised her. “Everybody, myself included, thought that when we’d look at 2020, we’d see some changes,” Satkunas said. “In fact, hourly rates increased, even a little more than the year before. I think, perhaps, that’s a good thing.” But Satkunas also noted that rates are typically locked in at the start of the year, so the pandemic’s potential impact on rates might not be truly felt until this year. Meanwhile, the report found that AFAs are continuing to grow on clients, though Satkunas was skeptical that they would ever come close to dethroning the almighty billable hour. “I know there’s been a gradual movement away from using hourly rates, but we’re never gonna see 50% of the market being billed under AFAs,” she said.