It’s that Monday morning feeling that starts on Saturday night for a lot of lawyers I’ve spoken to. It doesn’t have the decency to wait until Sunday night any more. The angst about the new week starts on Saturday. There’s a reason.
Law used to be a “safe option” – that is, law was the kind of degree you took and becoming a lawyer was the career you selected because it was a job for life. Law had a reputation for producing a great income and paying back student loans was never a great issue. Rather rapidly, I suggest that view is changing – and it impacts everyone. Change is agnostic.
A key question buried deep in the angst is: “Do you own your future?” For many, the answer is a resounding “no”. Herein lies the challenge, which for some will be the greatest opportunity of the decade – perhaps of their career – that is, how to take “ownership”. With an industry on the cusp of massive change, if not now then when is a better time to own the future?
You first have to acknowledge change. Failing to do so – or minimizing the consequences of change – is foolish. It’s all around us and like the rising tide, it will not be held back. How we respond to it is critical. Like water harnessed, change can be powerful in a very positive, energy-creating manner. Disregarded, it can equally be a damaging, ravaging force of destruction.
So how to “own” and how to “harness” change in this industry? One consideration is the path of the investor or legal tech entrepreneur. We’ve covered a few of these individuals on High Performance Counsel and we will be covering more. They’ve taken calculated risks to “own” what they consider to be a piece of the future industry pie. There are no guarantees and for some, the trade-off is huge – carrying the risk, the economic fragility and the uncertainty and putting all it on the line for the upside, independence and future-state desirability that success offers.
Maybe it’s time for law firms to think more closely about ownership also – not just partnership in the firm – but instead creation and leverage of IP assets and technology. For many years, the legal sector has “rented” technology – the level of organic investment in build-and-own has been minimal by comparison with other sectors. Typical organizational structure has much to do with this as does an institutional reliance on the infallibility of the time-as-product billing model. This arguably creates a real “value” dilemma for a younger generation contemplating law firm partnership. Will the value be there in ten years if the technology is not in place – and even moreso – not owned?
Which brings us back to Monday morning on Saturday night and a muse I read some time ago during my first legal tech excursion. It goes something like this:
“Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.”
As the partner-based model comes under increasing scrutiny and the trend toward technology-driven efficiency gains momentum, it’s time to think about your agenda as an individual and as a firm. Heading into this decade of change, if you’re not setting your agenda, the chances are you’re part of someone else’s.