We are convening our 20th annual meeting of the Law Firm Leaders Forum this week in New York. It has been a great joy for me to chair this meeting each year, especially in light of how significantly our legal ecosystem has changed over the course of those 20 years.

We created the Forum to provide an opportunity for law firm leaders to come together to talk about the issues that were most challenging to them and their firms. The hallmark of the Forum always has been informed candor: law firm leaders and advisors sharing their experiences — specifically and frankly — and exploring how best to deal with the realities they confront. This year will be no exception.

Here is a preview of some of what we will cover this year:

Annual Report on the State of the Profession and the Business of Law

Each year, we begin the Forum with an overview on the most important developments in the preceding 12 months. This year’s report will examine both where we are and where we are headed. We are particularly pleased to have William Hubbard, Immediate Past President of the American Bar Association (ABA) join us this year and share his insights gained from his time leading the ABA in its examination of how best to adapt to the changing realities of law practice in the 21st century.

A Call for Action: Restoring Professionalism to the Practice of Law

Earlier this year, three distinguished leaders of the bar, a general counsel, a law firm chair, and a law professor, published a seminal essay, Lawyers as Professionals and Citizens: Key Roles and Responsibilities in the 21st Century, calling for a renewal of professionalism in law practice. Ben Heineman, legendary former general counsel of General Electric, and one of the authors of the essay, will lead this session which will explore the ways professionalism in law practice has declined in recent years, and examine what can be done to restore lawyers to the societal roles they were intended to fulfill.

Keynote Speaker: Bob Woodward

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author Bob Woodward will keynote the Forum this year, sharing his perspectives on the issues of our day including the dynamics of the 2016 presidential campaign, the nuclear negotiations with Iran, and recent decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. Mr. Woodward will also share his perspectives on leadership, drawing on his observations of U.S. presidents during his 40 years in journalism.

Leading Change

More than any time in our 20 years of the Forum, change is in the forefront of any discussion of legal service. This year we will devote two sessions to the subject of managing and leading change. In the first, Harvard Professor Heidi Gardner will explore how her groundbreaking research on collaboration reveals secrets to steering organizations to achieve change. In the second, Prof. Gardner will lead a panel of law firm leaders and outside counsel in a discussion of the concrete application of her research to the specific changes that the panelists presently are implementing.

The Meaning of Client Relationships in the 21st Century

Client relationships will be more important than ever before in the world ahead. In this session a panel of leaders of three major law departments will share specific and candid insights about how law firms can best build meaningful relationships that will withstand all of the pressures the current marketplace imposes.

Enemies at the Gate: The Threat to Law Firm Data Security

We will close the Forum with a thorough and pragmatic survey of the risks law firms face to the security of their data and how to address those risks. We have assembled a panel of genuine experts in dealing with these issues, with a diversity of experience, who are particularly adept at discussing cybersecurity in terms that enable everyone to participate in the conversation.

I will report next week on highlights of the Forum.

This post was written by Ralph Baxter, chairman of the Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute. He can be reached at his website, www.ralphbaxter.com or on Twitter @ralphbaxter.

This article was first published on Legal Executive Institute on Oct. 6, 2015 titled, “The Law Firm Leaders Forum Turns 20” and is reproduced with permission.

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