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?
FERNANDO GARCIA

#4

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

I think that there are two important trends that are beginning to have a positive impact on the legal profession in Canada. First, there is a growing recognition and acceptance as to the importance of advancing diversity and inclusiveness within the profession and across our country. This is important, as if Canada is to effectively utilize and leverage the incredible skills, experiences and capabilities of all citizens, excluding any members of the workforce as a result of age, ethnicity, color, etc. means that we are not and will not ever reach our optimal potential. This is especially true in the case of the legal profession, where we are facing challenges with regard to access to justice, while at the same time, qualified and talented legal professionals are unable to secure articling and practicing roles. Enhancing diversity and inclusiveness will be an important and positive outcome for our lawyers, our profession, our communities and our country. The second change is with regard to the marriage between legal practice and technology. Technology has fundamentally altered how work is performed in many, if not most professions. It seems like the legal profession has resisted, but it cannot continue to do so. As we see exciting and practical new technologies come on board which allow us, as lawyers, to provide better and more efficient services, it is our responsibility to become aware and implement this technology. Hence, legal technology is fundamentally changing who does the work and how it gets done.

#7

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

Technology will fundamentally change and influence the practice of law. How we give advice, what advice we give and how in-house counsel and clients use that advice is changing. One just needs to look back at the fundamental change that computers made in the workplace. Productivity increased substantially, the workforce composition had to change to reflect that and it became necessary to invest in infrastructure and training to ensure that the new tools were being used to effectively. In my opinion, the upcoming change will be unprecedented, but the result is the same, we must change, we must adapt and we must embrace this change to service.

#14

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

You are living through an amazing time. We are looking at, within a very short time frame, a radical change in our lives. Cars will be connected and autonomous, work teams can work seamlessly from their workstations across the world, routine and labour intensive (sometimes mind numbing) research and due-diligence reviews of documents are no longer a part of learning the trade. We will have an unlimited amount of data and information within your fingertips, to provide you with the tools needed to represent your client and provide thorough and efficient legal advice. Technology tools are changing how we do our work and we must be willing to embrace this change. Staying abreast of the changes and embracing technology will be  the keys of your success in the future. Don’t fight it, embrace it!

#6

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

There are several important challenges facing our industry, some of which have been described above. However, these challenges also pose unique and great opportunities for those lawyers, law firms and legal departments that meet the challenges face on. In short I see these as the greatest challenges/opportunities:

a)     Diversity and inclusiveness
b)     The adoption of legal technology and AI
c)     Access to justice and Articling (opportunities for young lawyers)

TOM TRUJILLO

#4

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

I generally think the legal industry is headed in the right direction, albeit perhaps at a slower pace than it should.  If you think about the changes that have impacted other professional services such as consulting, you can see that the legal industry needs to adapt in order to grow in various ways, whether it is the pricing of legal services, the delivery model, or any of the other various aspects of the legal service industry.    Law departments, with the momentum they have built via the growth in the operations functions, are driving a lot of the changes.  Law firms are the next frontier of change, although they seem to be slower at making changes than, say, the consulting firms were during their transformative period.

#7

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

Without a doubt, technology will continue to develop in the legal industry, and its adoption will pick up. Clients expect it and will be demanding it.  They see the benefits in terms of efficiency, pricing, quality, etc.  In an industry where the gold standard is still the human touch, and billable hours are the financial yard stick, adopting technology has been somewhat slow.  But you see it gathering some momentum and I think it will continue to do so.

#14

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

They should go in to it with eyes wide open.  Being a lawyer is not necessarily an easy career to pursue.  It is very demanding and challenging. And there are many, many paths to pursue within the legal industry.  Be open to trying new things—you don’t know what you don’t know, and the only way to learn new things is to try new things.  Being open to it and always give it your best shot—don’t compromise on effort.

#6

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

As I mentioned above, I think it is the willingness of law firms to change to meet client needs and expectations.

BRENDAN BURNETT

#4

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

Not all law firms are headed in the right or wrong direction.  Those who are progressively headed toward a consulting model by employing a cross section of experts instead of only attorneys are better poised for the future.  I am particularly concerned about the failure of many “law firms” to hire and retain women and diverse candidates.

#7

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

The “progress” that comes from improved technology and new programs help eliminate the need for some attorneys and paralegals.  The evolving digital expansion will help streamline process.  Technology has actually been a double-edged sword.  It’s easier to work all the time and creates the stress of being “on-call” all the time.

#14

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

I interned in a law office for two summers during high school and learned a lot about the law.  Still, I did not apply to law school with the intention of practicing law.  I was pretty sure the I would work with financial products and liked the methodical thought process of the attorneys I knew.  Plus, I was exposed early to financial structuring of complex products and thought a combined JD/MBA would allow me to work across legal and finance.  Clearly that strategy was as appealing as I hoped it would be because I was hired to work at Lehman Brothers.

#6

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

Brexit; Cyber security; Fixed and applied costs in civil litigation; Online dispute resolution; New competition and technology.

ED VIDAL

#4

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

Whether the direction is right or wrong does not matter,  because it is going,  and the financial crisis of 2007-09 accelerated trends that were already under way:  (1)  Since the crisis,  there has been less work,  especially corporate transactions and related litigation,  and instead there has been a lot more of regulatory compliance,  which is not necessarily legal work.  Since last year,  the Trump administration’s policies of deregulation,  rule-of-law and tax cuts have increased the deal flow,  but the long-term trends continue.  (2)  Digitalization means that legal work can be done in less than one-third of the time required a few years ago,  reducing the need for a big staff,  especially requiring fewer junior lawyers.  In my case as a solo General Counsel,  I have sometimes relied on Practical Lawyer,  which provides me with access to top-notch forms of agreements,  commentary and checklists,  all produced by around 300 highly-experienced and dedicated lawyers.  In addition,  Artificial Intelligence is coming,  is effective,  and will replace much of the analytical grunt work traditionally performed by junior lawyers,  putting a premium on the experienced consigliere who can apply the legal answer to provide business solutions.  I wonder where the experienced senior lawyers of 20-30 years from now will receive their training?  (3)  Finally outsourcing,   including to non-lawyer vendors like Pangea,  Integreon and Exigent,  has revolutionized document review,  due diligence,  contract management and similar tasks,  again reducing the role of junior lawyers in law firms and undermining the leverage model of large-law firm profitability.

The profession is being disintermediated,  with new virtual law firms put together by legal aggregators like K-Lawyers,  Priori Legal and Axiom.  Legal technology has also become a growing industry,  with suppliers like Driven,  Practice Panther and Vortex establishing themselves.

The overall result is a pulling apart of the profession,  so that:  (1)  top law firms with stronger brand-identities  are pulling away from the next level;  (2)  retail customers are being served directly by online providers like  Legal Zoom,  Rocket Lawyer and Court Buddy;  and  (3)  General Counsel and other corporate counsel are becoming more capable,  more experienced,  and more powerful in the profession.

#7

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

Very deep,  because as Professor McGinnis of Northwestern University has observed,  the practice of law is essentially an exercise of Artificial Intelligence,  and machines will learn to do much of what constitutes the practice of law today.  Then lawyers will be needed who can take this information supplied by AI and apply it to provide business solutions.

#14

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

Work for at least one year between college and law school,  especially at something law-related like paralegal,  so that you learn the hierarchical structure of the profession and the demand for billable hours.

#6

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

The transition from the older generation to the new generation,  which is more business-like and technologically-savvy.  Some law schools have recognized this transition and are providing more training,  especially during the third year of law school,  in business and technological subjects,  in order to enable graduates to hit the ground running.  This third year of law school may eventually be eliminated,  but the jury is still out.  Accreditation services like ACEDS will probably thrive,  but not so much for lawyers as for paralegals and other legal professionals.