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In a November 26 op-ed titled "The Pricing of Legal Services," Philadelphia's managing shareholder Howard Scher provided his insight on the Legal Pulse survey conducted by Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney to determine the effect the economic crisis had on law firms in the Philadelphia area. He noted that the survey found that 61 percent of in-house and firm-based lawyers believe that the economic downturn permanently altered the fundamental practice of law and that these changes are significant and permanent.

Howard further noted that experience tells us that clients want to partner with their counsel and end the corrosive relationship created by paying for hours spent rather than for completing a proj­ect. Instead of wanting to do the job "faster, smarter, and cheaper," the hourly billing model cre­ates incentives to do the opposite.

The Philadelphia area attorneys surveyed believe that the "ability to embrace change" will be the most valuable attribute in overcoming the antici­pated economic challenges of 2011 and beyond, Howard said. Law firm management must ask whether its business model will work in the "new normal."

Howard indicated that returning to the same old ways will not move us forward. As the economy slowly improves it will be tempting for law firms to revert to business as usual. Smart firms in this time of crisis should be leading the way by aligning the interests of their cli­ents with their firm's business practices. Those that do will be rewarded with strong trusting relation­ships which encourage the performance of excel­lent and efficient legal services.