In our first #ThinkTank, we asked a panel of our world-class Faculty to share their uniquely valuable insights on the State of the Legal Industry. In this case, we asked them to share their wildest prediction for the state of the legal industry through year end 2020. The richness and diversity of their thinking makes for timely, compelling reading. We hope you enjoy it.
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Data is everywhere! One of the most surprising things that will become more evident by 2020 is how ubiquitous the challenge of data privacy will be in legal cases worldwide. We are already seeing data privacy concerns being raised in antitrust matters in Europe, the US Federal Trade Commission is exploring the promises that tech companies are making to consumers about data privacy, we have the Internet of Things (IoT), we have digitally connected Smart Homes, we have Autonomous Vehicles and we even have countries who require electronic geo-fencing. This data will create a sea of new data privacy issues that will affect legal matters. There will soon be an obligatory data privacy “lens” needed in the consideration of most legal cases in the not so distant future.
I think that the elite firms will aggressively invest in technology and innovation to counter the Big Four’s bold moves. Even the largest firms need to lower the unit cost of delivery to maintain a sustainable amount of contribution-margin work that gives them the freedom to work on large complex matters and embrace high risk, high reward alternative fee arrangements, particularly in litigation. At the same time, the Big Four are going to continue to buy LPOs and legal technology companies. EY’s purchase of Pangea was just a precursor to a major campaign by the Big Four to take work from law firms. At the same time, the business model for the new breed of “Enterprise Legal Services” providers will be tested. We will know if the outsourcing, rebadging theory of delivery has an extended runway amid the aggressive investment strategies from Big Law and the Big Four.
However, we need to adapt our legal education system to reflect the rapidly changing dynamics of the profession. Yes, we will still teach students about contracts, torts, property, procedure, and all the classic and necessary aspects of a legal education. However, we should supplement the traditional legal curriculum of law schools to better reflect the needs of clients, as well as 21st century technology and skillsets. That includes incorporating more business classes. It includes project management, operations, lean processes, design thinking, data analytics, technology, and many other subjects that will help them bring more value to clients. These missing skillsets are necessary and warranted from the future solo practitioner to Big Law attorney and the future government attorney to corporate counsel. These are broadly applicable skillsets.
A look at current legal hiring trends should be the canary in the coal mine. Projections on how we will practice law in the near future should be the guiding road map. While we won’t see all of these in curricula by the end of 2020, we should start the conversation by then, or as soon as possible.
The legal profession has survived hundreds of years. It will survive more. What’s my wildcard? Nothing will change our profession. It’s our profession that needs to adapt to the digitalization of our economy and the way business people think and react to new information in our new economy.
Referring to the access to justice issue I mentioned above, I am confident that we’re going to see great strides in technology, especially in the AI space. While we don’t yet see it as commonplace in the foundational legal tools that legal departments are implementing, we are starting to see the service providers employing AI, such as law firms and alternative legal service providers (ALSPs). In addition, we’ll begin to see the liberalization of legal services. It won’t happen this year, and maybe not even next, but with the Big 4 clearly moving into this space and alternative service providers only gaining marketshare, I am confident the rules are going to change, just like they did for AirBnB, Uber and medical marijuana – all whose models were illegal when they began, but the rules changed to meet the demand.
Molly L. Pease
- Corporate counsel can handle most work themselves, internally or through outsourcing.
- So they will hire only law firms at the top range that not only get complicated work done, but also provide an insurance policy, through their brand name, for the corporate counsel.
First, I think that legal service providers will find themselves losing clients on the basis of “how they are delivering the service” and “how hip they are with the use of technology.”
Second, and this one is not just for the legal industry, I won’t be surprised that in 30 years or less it will be a crime to be in possession of physical paper. I think the environmental conditions and risks will be responsible for that.
All Computers … no people
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