There was no shortage of legal news in 2018, and it tended to concentrate in a few areas. As we look forward to the year to come, we took a moment to reflect on the major themes of the past year and anticipate how those stories might develop in 2019. We focus on the quest for innovation, record-breaking mergers, mental health, associate retention and the boom in law firm demand. And as we watch those stories continue to unfold into the future, we’ll also have an eye out for the next storylines to emerge.
Outsourcing and legal analytics are likely to take up firms’ attention in 2019. Law firms are finally using data analytics in two crucial ways. The first is to better manage their businesses. The second, with the help of a growing roster of tech products, is to be better lawyers.
Lawyer suicides sparked an industrywide conversation on attorney mental health and well-being in 2018 that is gaining steam, especially since Joanna Litt published a personal essay in The American Lawyer in November describing the extreme stress and workload her husband, Sidley Austin partner Gabe MacConaill, faced before he kill himself in October.
From IP law to Brexit, surging demand will keep revenues steady in the coming year. Some will assume that the industry’s marquee names have been the beneficiaries of the recent remarkable results, and there is some truth to that, as the surge is concentrated within the Am Law 100. But firms in the tiers below have also enjoyed noticeable growth.
Firms are pulling out all the stops as we head into 2019, from raises to bonuses to work-life balance benefits, but associate retention remains an issue. Law firms are reluctantly accepting that they need to offer more to their associates to keep them happy, and they’re making concessions.
After two record-breaking years, merger activity is expected to stay high in the new year. With the U.S. economy expected to continue growing into 2020, mergers keep on coming. More importantly, quality is rising along with quantity.