Mark Cohen recently published an interesting article in Forbes Magazine on The New Legal Career. He observed how legal careers have evolved in three significant ways: 1. legal practice is now the delivery of legal services; 2. technology brings lawyers back to basics; and 3. legal delivery presents great opportunities. It’s worthwhile exploring these evolutions further.
Legal practice is now the delivery of legal (and other) services
For centuries, consulting a lawyer was equal to consulting an expert, who could give advice, and perform specific tasks, including legal representation, in his or her field of expertise. In the last few decennia, all of that has changed. Law practices are more and more being run like businesses, and as a result focus more on the delivery of legal services. And their activities are no longer limited to just legal services. As Mark Cohen points out: “legal delivery has been transformed into a three-legged stool supported by legal, technological, and process expertise.” We are dealing with “a structural and process change that involves the interaction of professional expertise, technology and process to leverage and scale the delivery of professional services.”
A while ago Deloitte published the results of its survey on “Future Trends for Legal Services.” One of its key findings was that the market for legal services is moving and growing. Another one was that the expectations that customers had of their legal services providers were evolving and expanding, too. The report concluded that there was a need for a new type of legal service provider.
The same sentiment was echoed in an article, published in May 2017, in Law.com, on “The 12 Core Competencies that Define the Future of Legal Operations”. The author concluded that, these days, the consumers of legal services expect law firms to also be proficient at:
- Strategic planning;
- Financial management;
- Vendor management;
- Data analytics;
- Technology support;
- Alternative support models;
- Knowledge management;
- Growth and development;
- Global data governance/records management;
- Litigation support; and
- Cross-functional alignment.
This implies that the traditional advice that lawyers should develop a singular deep expertise (i.e. an I-shaped profile) is outdated. Instead, lawyers should look to combine a legal expertise with a broader skill set (i.e. a T-shaped profile), which includes effective interpersonal and negotiation skills, business understanding and judgment, and empathizing with and understanding client’s psychological needs.
The Role of Technology
Lawyers have an unprecedented access to new technologies, like law firm management software, eDiscovery, Artificial Intelligence, and others, which are available to assist them in their profession. These technologies enable, i.a., lower cost delivery, budgeting, fee analysis, rapid communication, and understanding companies and industries.
In the last year, there has also been a dramatic proliferation in intelligent legal chatbots, and robot lawyers, which are offering legal services. While these may seem to be competing with law firms, it is worth pointing out that this type of automation takes over certain tasks, not jobs. With the currently available technology, only 23 percent of a lawyer’s tasks can be automated.
The result of these technological evolutions is that they allow lawyers to focus on more essential tasks, like engaging with clients, exercising professional judgment, providing counsel (not just in legal matters but more holistically), engaging in client representation before tribunals, or negotiating key commercial transactions.
The advanced use of technology has another beneficial effect: by increasing efficiency and productivity, Legal Tech helps make the law more affordable, and therefore more accessible.
Legal delivery presents great opportunities
Several of the articles mentioned above showed how law firms are confronted with a new demand for both legal and non-legal services.
Mark Cohen: “The new legal career presents a wealth of opportunity for those that combine practice excellence, ‘contemporarily relevant’ skills (process and project management, marketing, business basics, etc.), and people skills. (…) A proliferation of delivery models, products, markets, and opportunities will result in the creation of new jobs, new collaborative opportunities, and a global marketplace.”
The changing market offers other opportunities, as well. In the last 5 years, e.g., there has been a 484% rise in Legal Tech patents. Worldwide, 579 patents relating to new legal services technology were filed worldwide in 2016, up from just 99 patents in 2012. Many of these were filed by lawyers-turned-entrepreneurs. An interesting article in Entrepeneur magazine, on 14 June 2017, mentions 10 such examples of lawyers who are creating a revolution in Legal Tech:
- Haley Altman created Doxly, an automated document and transaction management platform
- Noory Bechor founded LawGeex, which specializes in AI contract review
- Ned Gannon created eBrevia, which provides contract due diligence and lease abstraction
- Michael Mills started Neota Logic Inc, an AI-driven, no-code platform for intelligent automation of expertise, documents and processes
- Chrissie Lightfoot founded Robot Lawyer LISA, a Legal Intelligence Support Assistant (AI)
- Nehal Madhani started Alt Lega to manage global IP filings
- Joseph R. Tiano created Legal Decoder, which provides analytic tools and data to manage costs of outside counsel
- Michael Sander founded Docket Alarm, which provides legal search, analytics and litigations alerts for the United States court system
- Andrew Arruda co-founded, Ross Intelligence, an AI legal assistant and research tool, leveraging IBM Watson
- Noah Waisberg started Kira Systems, which helps enterprises identify, extract and analyze business information from unstructured contracts
- www2.deloitte.com/global/en/pages/legal/articles/deloitte-future-trends-for-legal-services.html (includes link to download a PDF with the report)