• January 10, 2014
Photograph by Peter Rivera

Photograph by Peter Rivera

I recently coined the term “flash firms” in a Minnesota Litigator post. The term comes from “flash mobs,” which were born in 2003.  Wikipedia defines a “flash mob:”

a group of people…assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then quickly disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment, satire, and artistic expression.

Flash firms are consortia of lawyers and other peripheral legal service providers (paralegals, computer forensics experts, private investigators, forensics experts, etc.) that form for particular cases (or parts of cases (e.g., discovery or trial)) and then “quickly disperse.”  In other words, these are case-specific legal teams (or even more narrowly tailored than that).  This is not a new phenomenon by any means but I suggest it is a quickly growing one.

The advantages to clients is clear.  Clients get a customized team, tailored for their particular legal service needs.  They do not pay for law firm overhead through out-sized hourly rates charged by the lawyers at large law firms.

Who would be the losers if this business model were to take root and expand?

Legal secretaries, paralegals, and large law firms who cannot easily pivot to the new model.

Kathy Robertson of the Sacramento Business Journal highlighted a newly formed law firm that has done away with its receptionists.  The receptionists’ responsibilities have been replaced by automation — voice-mail, touch-screen communications in the office, etc.

It is premature to announce the demise of the “traditional law firm model” by decades, at least. But, on the other hand, there is no doubt that an evolution that challenges the practice of law in the United States and elsewhere is on-going.  In my view, it may be socially beneficial broadly, but it is and will continue to be very difficult adjustment for legal services providers.

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