The annual Georgetown Law School conference on large law firms opened Sunday night with the general counsel of Ernst & Young Global saying that the times — and the flow of international capital — demanded a new model for law firm-client relations, a prediction by the senior vice president of the Association of Corporate Counsel that clients would be patient for only another 18 months with their outside firms and a vigorous defense by the outgoing head of Kirkland & Ellis who said essentially that anyone who thought law firms didn’t understand that a new reality was upon them was not paying attention to the market.

It was a lively start to the two-day, 10-panel meeting sponsored by the Georgetown Center for the Study of the Legal Profession. This year’s event, titled “Law Firm Evolution: Brave New World or Business As Usual?,” is the third such conference organized by the Center. This conference is different from the usual fare in that it attempts to bring 60 academics, working lawyers and a handful of outside observers into the same meeting to discuss and debate a variety of academic papers that range across the landscape from studies of client hiring patterns to a case study of the rise of law firms in Shanghai. (Click here to access the papers.)