For some time, law firms have felt heightened competition from not just other law firms, but also from clients moving needs in-house and alternative service providers picking off peripheral services.  As reported by Bloomberg Law in Arizona First State to Allow Nonlawyer Co-Ownership of Law Firms, looming rule or legislative changes in a number of states may boost significantly ASPs ability to compete with traditional law firms, and not just on the margins.

It is too early to predict how much pressure law firms will feel from these changes.  Nor can it be predicted whether expanded rights for ASPs will make legal services for Americans more accessible.  Yet given the relative prominence ASPs have in the legal landscape already, it is reasonable to predict that future ASP competition will be more formidable than ever.  Indeed, ASPs creative use of impending changes could be breathtaking.

Guiding traditional firms in this potentially altered industry requires leaders to redouble their attention on management principles, strategic planning and talent retention and procurement.

What should be done?  At a high level, three things come to mind:

Look Inward.              With all that has happened in 2020, no doubt most firms have taken stock of where they stand.  Don’t stop, do it some more, but with ASP intrusion in mind. Focus on internal changes that can add greater efficiency (and quality) to the delivery of legal services.  You know that is what the ASPs will be doing and touting to your clients.

Look Outward.           What does your legal service market look like? Is more ASP competition likely (is your state sprinting towards ASP expansion or dragging its feet), is your firm already finding it hard to compete, or does it have a leg up on existing competition.  Even if this review is positive, realize that the impact of ASPs will be felt eventually.

Look Ahead.               If ASPs are likely to descend into your market like never before, what is your challenge and how do you meet it?  Or are you on the cusp of a “if I can’t beat them join them” moment? There is a fork in the road-will you turn right, left, or follow Yogi Berra’s advice and “take it?”

With the advent of this change, what are your strengths internally and externally?  Assessing them in the context of a looming marketplace disruption can highlight a responsive path forward. But business as usual, without thoughtful reflection on these impactful developments, just won’t do.