I’m seeing some articles of how times seem to be getting better in the large law firm world.  Some associates are back up to the $160K pay range, and that those hard-hit practice areas (Capital Markets, Real Estate, and Corporate) are finally picking back up. So many of you may be thinking that we can start getting back to “normal” now that demand for legal services seems to be rebounding.  But don’t get too happy, because partners say that the best thing they did in this economic downturn was slash budgets [pdf] (politically correct term is “reduce expenses.”)  Even firms that jumped ahead of the curve and began offering alternative fee agreements to their clients seem to be having a hard time collecting on those agreements.
As I was reading through the [pdf] article written by Andrews Kurth’s Amy Sladczyk Hancock, PD Vital To The New Way Forward: Insights from Five Managing Partners (interview of Managing Partners of Andrews Kurth, Bracewell Guiliani, Dickstein Shapiro, Sutherland Asbill, and Steptoe Johnson), I got to thinking about what these BigLaw Managing Partners were seeing in their crystal balls.  As I told some of my peers in a personal note, I usually take my comments from Law Firm CEO’s like I take my eggs — with a grain of salt, but this article got me thinking if there is ‘opportunities’ within the library [KM, IT, etc.] to support professional development.  The big quote of:

“Competitive advantage in the new economy will depend entirely on having better trained lawyers who have been trained more efficiently and more quickly, and [professional development] departments and professionals are vital to helping law firms establish that advantage.” [emphasis mine]  

Seems like that knocking that many of you on the ‘administrative’ or ‘professional’ side of law firms are hearing might be opportunity.