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?
Sonya Olds Som

#4

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

I think that the legal industry is generally headed in the right direction. I just think that change – especially in the very risk-averse legal industry – is slow to occur. Slower than we’d like. Often, for every two steps forward, it feels that we are taking a step backwards. And sometimes it feels like we aren’t moving at all. Those days are incredibly disheartening and frustrating and it is tempting to lose hope and give up. But I do feel like positive change is occurring and we must not give in to fatigue or despair. The change is incremental, and it zigs and zags, but it is happening! We can’t always see it or fully appreciate it from where we are now, but when we look back on it, we can see how far we’ve come.

#7

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

I think that some forms of technology that are well integrated into the industry in a practical way will ultimately prove to have a deep and lasting impact on the legal industry, but it will be gradual.

#14

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

The advice I would and do give to those considering the practice of law and to new lawyers is to be as sure as you can be that this is what you want long term, and to be prepared to fight for this career. I have found the practice and business of law to be a very rewarding career over the last 20 years as an attorney and a legal recruiter. But it hasn’t been easy. It’s never easy. The work is long and hard. The challenges and expectations are many. The highs can be very high, but the lows can be very low indeed. There are always tradeoffs, personally and professionally. You can have it all, but not all at the same level at the same time. But if this is what you want, what you really want, and you are committed to this profession, be all in. Study constantly. Always be improving. Learn the business of law as well as your clients’ businesses. Develop your craft, skills and reputation. Be known for being polite, positive, punctual, prepared and professional. Dedicate real time to developing and cultivating your brand and network. Always be cultivating mutually beneficial relationships. You won’t be sorry you did. Every time I have been up the creek in my 20 year career, my brand and network were the paddle that allowed me to make it to shore again. Every. Single. Time.

Monica Zent

#4

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

Progress and evolution is always the right direction, in my opinion. The legal industry, although slower than other industries, is certainly moving in that direction. With a greater appetite for innovative business models, business processes and legal technologies, the legal industry is in a position to improve. Certainly, there is major resistance from factions of the legal industry against such changes but as a futurist and an innovator, I suspect those factions will eventually be overcome.

#7

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

Very deep. Tech has its foothold in law now and there is no letting it go. Technology is and will continue to have a lasting impact in the law.

#14

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

The law will always be a part of our society and so will the need for lawyers on some level or another. The law, as a profession in the future, will not look like what it historically has looked like and that’s a reality that I believe people should understand before they choose law. I would advise new entrants in the law be well-versed in, and not afraid, of using, creating and leveraging technologies, the essential tools of tomorrow’s successful lawyer. I would also suggest people consider the many careers in the law that do not necessarily involve practicing law, such as legal operations, legal marketing, and legal research, should their skills and interests be well-suited to those functions.

#6

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

The greatest challenging facing the legal industry is the fact that it cannot seem to get out of its own way.

The legal industry and many of the players in it hinder their own growth and innovation.

Harry Buck

#4

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

I am not sure there is just one legal industry and I am not sure that it is headed anywhere in particular.  It seems to me that technology has enabled some sectors to modernize, in spite of many fighting the inevitable, but has made little inroad in others.

#7

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

No deeper than it is today. I remember when the technology big deal was the introduction of a Wang word processor to a law firm, back when I started practicing in 1980.  It was a big deal.  I can’t imagine writing an appellate brief before the word processor, but they managed to get by.  I expect 20 years from now there will be a few similar changes that lawyers will look back on and wonder how it was possible to practice law before the change.  While there will be some changes, increased use of AI for example, the essence of the practice of law will still be the same. 

#14

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

I would ask them, are you sure?  Actually, I would down play the significance of the decision because the new generation will likely have several careers throughout their lifetimes. I would ask they why they thought they wanted to be lawyers and trouble-shoot their thinking with my experience. About half of the people who go to law school these days end up doing something other than the traditional practice of law. In some ways, law school is the new finishing school.

#6

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

The cost and availability of services to clients.  Most people cannot afford to hire a lawyer.  Probably the greatest innovation in the availability of services in the legal practice has nothing to do with technology.  It was the introduction of the contingency fee.

Laura Maechtlen

#4

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

Neither. I would argue that we fail to move in the right direction collectively, and we fail to move fast enough. There are many people in the industry that realize we need to change and work differently — we must diversify the profession; we need to solve for the failings of our primary business model for law firms — the billable hour model; we must learn how to recognize that we can embrace a “profession” while also running a business; and, we need to preserve the rule of law, while ensuring access to justice for all.

#7

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

Deep. However, our collective reaction to the power of technology is the issue. We also have a major issue with how we share information about technology. We need to stop the hype, and minimize the use of basic technology to stand up fancy marketing campaigns. We need to think broadly about how technology might impact the industry, coupled with other ways we might practice differently — how will we use talent differently, and how can we approach the business model of a law firm differently? Technology is not an issue in a silo – there are other ways we are seeing change, including with talent and process. With respect to technology, we see “chicken little” arguments now: “AI will replace the lawyers!” or “Automation is coming for my job!” These arguments typically end in either dismissal of technology and how it might impact the industry. While automation may aid in minimizing repetitive tasks, mundane projects and low-level inquiries in the short term and beyond, and AI and other technologies may ultimately displace some workers from certain tasks they hold today (not likely entire jobs), I’ve come to at least two conclusions: (1) some tasks lawyers hold today will be replaced by new tasks which have not yet even been imagined; and (2) lawyers knowledge work will continue to offer human beings a lot of opportunity. Lawyers are perhaps too dismissive sometimes about how technology could impact the profession, but I am hopeful that I am wrong. Technology is just one way in which we are being challenged to operate differently.

 

#14

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

Do not listen to the naysayers. Law can provide a great career. You can change peoples’ lives with a JD. Do not get boxed into believing that your career path is narrow. There are lawyers outside of BigLaw who do amazing work every day, and there are many non-practicing attorneys with access to careers they never thought possible.

#6

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

Resistance to change.