How the legal industry is evolving in a dynamic, post-recession economy
Cesar Alvarez Senior Chairman – Greenberg Traurig, LLP
How has the notion of “legal expertise” evolved since the Great Recession?
The legal industry is quickly changing and the value an attorney provides is more than about knowledge of legal statutes. The focus has to be on understanding a client’s business and how to solve problems—not just legal ones. The problems a client may encounter will have many facets, and a good attorney should always seek to serve as the quarterback. You want to become the first person the client consults to strategize on finding a solution. This flexible and dynamic approach is what attorneys today need in order to be competitive.
Given these trends, how do you see the legal industry changing in the medium term?
Technology has been the most disruptive factor shaping the legal industry. It starts with setting the expectations that clients have of our ability to provide immediate answers and also serves as an invaluable source of information. As technology evolves, it also presents new business opportunities as our clients face concerns about cybersecurity, white collar defense and related regulatory investigations.
These new challenges are touching everyone, including government, financial institutions, retailers, internet merchants, major corporations and consumers. Looking forward, we will be deploying our efforts to engage clients in these areas, where we have tremendous expertise.
How can you utilize technology to help drive change in the legal industry?
With more than 1,950 lawyers around the world, every attorney at Greenberg Traurig has a unique knowledge base. We need to better access that knowledge base in real time to meet the demands of clients looking for instant answers to solve their problems. We can learn from the Uber model how to utilize technology to instantly match a client with the right attorneys and expertise. Exactly what that is going to look like, I don’t know yet. But we can’t simply tweak the old model. We have to adapt our linear way of thinking to create a new non-linear approach that will work well into the future.
In crafting a growth strategy for a “big law” firm like Greenberg Traurig, what must be considered?
In 2015, Greenberg Traurig saw significant expansion, adding about 150 attorneys to our rosters and boosting our international capabilities. We opened a new office in Berlin, and grew our Warsaw and Mexico City offices, along with additional and important expansion throughout our existing U.S. offices. But it’s not just about growth for growth’s sake. We only look to add lawyers if it’s strategic growth that adds additional quality expertise and resources that align with our existing platform. For instance, hiring a specialist in a niche area, like complex real estate tax law would be leveraging and allow us to more comprehensively service our clients. For a firm our size, two and two must always add up to more than four.