At High Performance Counsel, we pride ourselves on asking the right questions – which are typically also the tough questions. So any of these four questions taken from our infamous #BakersDozen interview is arguably an essay in its own right.

These are broad-reaching considerations that go deep into the heart of the present legal arena and speak to the shape and substance of the legal industry that is surely emerging. Most would accept that some change is already evident and that more can be expected – but just how much and what form(s) will it take? How fast can this be expected to occur? Importantly, what does the future hold for new and younger generations – and how might that reflect in the advice we offer.

So it is that our new #BakersBest 4X4 Series brings together the thoughts and insights of top thought-leaders and practitioners in the space – a coming together around the same questions in a sharing of timely perspective.

We hope you enjoy this.

  • DO YOU THINK THE LEGAL INDUSTRY IS HEADED IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION, THE WRONG DIRECTION – OR WHICH DIRECTION?
  • HOW DEEP DO YOU THINK WILL BE THE INROADS OF TECHNOLOGY IN THE INDUSTRY?
  • WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THE YOUNGER GENERATION CONTEMPLATING LAW AS A CAREER?
  • WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER IS THE GREATEST CHALLENGE FACING THE INDUSTRY?
MARK YACANO

#4

DO YOU THINK THE LEGAL INDUSTRY IS HEADED IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION, THE WRONG DIRECTION – OR WHICH DIRECTION?

I think that is exciting to watch our industry accelerate the pace of change. That said, the gas pedal gets stuck from time to time. Still, law firms and law departments are embracing technology, legal operations professionals and new staffing models at a quickening pace. There is an intellectual energy driving new ways of delivering legal services better. These changes will enable lawyers and other professionals to do very high-quality work while spending less time on less-complex work.

I do worry about the rush to over-hype the ability of technology to “self-perform”.  What I mean is that even the best technology needs sound processes designed by people to better provide client services. At CLOC, Connie Brenton and a colleague from NetApp did an amazing session on Robotics Process Automation (“RPA”). A key point that they made was that bots can execute on a wide number of functions if the processes and rules structure exist to guide them.  That is true for expert systems such as Neota Logic as well. Technology that is deployed without a process and rule-driven structural framework is generally ineffective.

#7

HOW DEEP DO YOU THINK WILL BE THE INROADS OF TECHNOLOGY IN THE INDUSTRY?

I don’t think I like the term deep.  The use of technology will continue to perfuse the delivery of legal services and given the nature of how the legal industry has historically responded to change, adoption will be dose-calibrated.  Think of legal technology like IV medication.  That medication is delivered in doses at certain rate and at certain strength levels.  The same is true with adoption and deployment of legal technology. As technology is deployed across all sectors of business the flow rate for legal technology will increase.

#14

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THE YOUNGER GENERATION CONTEMPLATING LAW AS A CAREER?

Have an open mind about your path forward. Success is personal to you and only you can define what that looks like. Maybe you belong in a big firm or perhaps your passion lies with public service – just remember that any path you choose is ok.  We learn to frame and analyze issues in law school.  Increasingly law students also learn about how to leverage technology to solve problems.  Live in both worlds.  Using a pencil and paper to think through issues is a practice you should embrace just as much as writing code or using automation tools.  Inventors still have inventors notebooks for a reason. The act of putting ideas on paper stimulates deeper thinking.

#6

WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER IS THE GREATEST CHALLENGE FACING THE INDUSTRY?

The economy is the biggest threat.  During the last recession the legal profession was deeply impacted.  There were a group of firms that had the talent and the expertise to create solutions that helped respond to a potential meltdown of the global economy, but many firms took a significant hit financially.  My sense is that the profession is not battle-ready for an economic downturn.  Trade issues, spastic de-regulation, reform rollbacks and political uncertainty create the potential for a significant slowdown of the economy.  While the process of creating more efficient delivery models through technology, process management and alternative staffing models is occurring, it may not happen at a fast enough pace to mitigate the potential impact of an economic slowdown.

Somya Kaushik

#4

DO YOU THINK THE LEGAL INDUSTRY IS HEADED IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION, THE WRONG DIRECTION – OR WHICH DIRECTION?

That’s tough to answer because I think there are several components and angles you can answer this question from. Having said that, I’ll focus on one “right” direction and one “wrong” direction. I believe the legal industry is moving in the right direction when it comes to correcting gender discrimination in the field. And I believe the legal industry is moving in a different direction when it comes to realizing that BigLaw may not be the future of law anymore.

#7

HOW DEEP DO YOU THINK WILL BE THE INROADS OF TECHNOLOGY IN THE INDUSTRY?

It will be the main way we practice law, from predictive research, AI drafting, to virtual representation of clients, predicting the outcome of cases and trials.

#14

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THE YOUNGER GENERATION CONTEMPLATING LAW AS A CAREER?

I would stress that being a lawyer today is no longer confined to a few options (firm, public service, in-house) as it was before. There are so many avenues and ways you can be a lawyer now, from creating a role of your own at a large startup or VC firm, to starting your own legal service company. It’s about how you use your academic degree more than what options you have.

#6

WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER IS THE GREATEST CHALLENGE FACING THE INDUSTRY?

The inability to understand the problem and how technology can make a difference, the difficulty in accepting a new way of practicing, and the skepticism that comes with new adopting new practices.

Steph Corey

#4

DO YOU THINK THE LEGAL INDUSTRY IS HEADED IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION, THE WRONG DIRECTION – OR WHICH DIRECTION?

It’s absolutely heading in the right direction, with in-house law departments demanding the change, solution providers listening and responding accordingly, and the progressive thinkers in law firms offering new and creative services.  It took a long time for us to get here, but now the change is happening quickly.

#7

HOW DEEP DO YOU THINK WILL BE THE INROADS OF TECHNOLOGY IN THE INDUSTRY?

Technology is absolutely critical as the delivery of legal services evolves, and I would like to see more integration between firms and their clients in the future for seamless information sharing.

#14

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THE YOUNGER GENERATION CONTEMPLATING LAW AS A CAREER?

It’s actually a great time to go into law.  There are so many directions you can go with a law degree, and some in-house departments are even starting to hire right out of law school.  Opportunities are changing for lawyers.

#6

WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER IS THE GREATEST CHALLENGE FACING THE INDUSTRY?

The greatest challenge facing the industry is the traditional bespoke model is no longer affordable by most individuals and small to medium-sized businesses. There are going to have to be major changes in the way law firms operate, perhaps most significantly moving away from the traditional leverage model which has made a lot of lawyers very wealthy, but no longer serves the needs of most users of legal support.

David Greetham

#4

DO YOU THINK THE LEGAL INDUSTRY IS HEADED IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION, THE WRONG DIRECTION – OR WHICH DIRECTION?

I believe the legal industry is generally headed in the right direction, though it feels like we are in the middle of a transition and change is often painful.

#7

HOW DEEP DO YOU THINK WILL BE THE INROADS OF TECHNOLOGY IN THE INDUSTRY?

While I believe the sky is the limit in terms of what we can achieve with technology, I also don’t believe technology will ever fully replace humans. For example, the eDiscovery industry is starting to experience incredible efficiencies using Artificial Intelligence (AI), but we still need smart people to review the output and make decisions.

As AI becomes more and more mainstream, I also believe that we will start to see the emergence of Intelligent Support Technology (IST) – an offshoot of AI. At some point, it will become questionable as to whether we can continue to call it “Artificial”. Even now, some of the technologies available boast significant learning capabilities that will eventually leap to making intelligent decisions (albeit to a limited degree).

#14

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THE YOUNGER GENERATION CONTEMPLATING LAW AS A CAREER?

My advice to people is to focus early on in a specialized area of legal expertise, with a goal of becoming an SME. I believe general law practice will change significantly in the short term future and the best opportunities may well be offered to SME’s.

#6

WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER IS THE GREATEST CHALLENGE FACING THE INDUSTRY?

Because of the large increases in the volume of data (business documents, connected devices and social media) required to go through the eDiscovery process, FRCP amendments called for more proportionality. The challenge in my mind is that proportionality is defined by the individual judges and there appears to be no firm understanding of what should be considered proportionate in the eDiscovery arena. Ambiguity is the only certainty. We need to gain more clarity on what proportionate really is, whether that’s a percentage of the claims at stake, an agreement at the start of the legal process, or perhaps some other well defined criteria.