Advice for New Lawyers in a Changing Legal Market

The delivery of legal services is changing. Author Mark Cohen writes in “Big Money is Betting on Legal Industry Transformation” that law is a trillion dollar market with no Goliaths. The industry is fragmented and ripe for transformation. Law firms are becoming a smaller segment of the legal supply chain.

Cohen predicts that “the hegemony of the traditional law firms is over.” He explains that “law firms have lost their hegemony over legal delivery. Their market share is eroding.” New legal providers are entering the market. These different providers include, in-house legal departments, accounting firms, technology start-ups, and possibly Amazon in the future.

Given the unchartered territory, how can new lawyers adapt? In the article “Succeeding in the Business of Law: 5 Rules Every Lawyer Should Live By“, lawyer Robert Katzberg identifies universal principles that lawyers can follow in building their career, regardless of the type of employer.

  1. Be open to opportunities. You may find that people you have not met and circumstances you could not imagine will lead to work and interesting opportunities.
  2.  Treat everyone as a potential referral source. “Treat everyone, whether they be clients, other lawyers, opponents, or judges you appear before, as potential sources of business, because that is what they are. You never know in what future circumstance any person you are dealing with professionally today, will tomorrow be in a position to either refer a matter to you or keep you out of one.”
  3. Be gracious in acceding something that doesn’t adversely affect your position. It will leave a good impression on other people and build good will.
  4. Be credible. Never promise something that you cannot deliver.
  5. Interpersonal skills still matter. Interpersonal skills can be as important as technical skills. Be mindful of your audience.

As the legal industry changes, some things remain the same. Doing good work and being respectful are always in fashion.

(Views are my own and do not represent the views of any organization.)


  1. I heartily endorse #1. I owe my entire career to opportunities that came from the most unlikely places.

    I started out hating the very concept of networking – I just pictured awful events with people frantically trying to pass off as many business cards as they could, with only the faintest chance of forming a real connection to anyone. Over time, I realized that networking doesn’t have to be that way. Networking can also mean going to events just because you’re interested and talking to people out of a genuine desire to learn more about their work and their passions, without any deliberate attempt whatsoever to generate leads and referrals. I almost never even have business cards on me (more due to forgetfulness than any conscious decision). I have found that people really appreciate and value those authentic connections and they lead to more and more interesting opportunities than simply pressing business cards in to palms.