Until recently, lawyers needed just a few tools to ply their trade—legal knowledge, licensure, and clients. Good ones had a fuller kit—specialized skills and/or expertise, oratorical and writing proficiency, and a combination of intellectual and people smarts that elevated their client standing from lawyer to trusted adviser.
‘Innovation’ and ‘disruption’ are the legal industry’s favorite terms these days. Articles and conferences on ‘legal innovation’ and ‘disruption’–whether, when, how, and by whom—are legion. Pinpointing when disruption will occur is as unpredictable as an Amtrak train’s arrival. As Yogi said, ‘it’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.’ Another way to chart the industry’s future is to consider whether the traditional partnership model law firms are becoming obsolete and, if so, what will replace them? That does not require a crystal ball or a Ouija board; a growing body of evidence points to advancing obsolescence of the incumbent partnership model. The structural and operational characteristics of its replacement are now identifiable–even if its dominant players have yet to be determined. [Read more…]
The career paths and prospects for young lawyers are markedly different than recent generations. A law degree was once a passport to a stable, predictable, and financially secure career. Most lawyers began their careers with little or no student debt and entered a marketplace where on-the-job training and mentorship were provided. The situation is different today from the day a student enrolls in law school. The cost of legal education has risen approximately 400% during the past quarter century, leaving many grads with six-figure student loans to pay off. Worse still, law schools do not expose them to marketplace conditions that demand they be ‘practice ready’ and equipped with skills beyond a knowledge of doctrinal law. The Grateful Dead comes to mind– ‘Well the first days are the hardest days, don’t you worry any more….’ [Read more…]
One way to describe the future lawyer is to list challenges attorneys must confront, then identify skillsets required to meet them. [Read more…]
Michael Corkery’s recent New York Times article, ‘Is Retail at a Historic Tipping Point?’ is well worth the read. It describes the retail industry’s rapid transition from stores and malls to online shopping. The article exposes the the human toll the transition has effected–fewer jobs and lower pay except senior management. Technology has changed the buy/sell dynamic, enabling new delivery models to unseat the incumbent one. Let’s examine Mr. Corkery’s analysis of retail and compare it to the legal marketplace. [Read more…]
Competition for corporate legal work is keen. Law firms vie with each other for a shrinking segment of outsourced legal work. Corporate legal departments and a growing array of well capitalized, tech and process savvy service providers now account for an almost 50% of legal spend. It’s not surprising, then, that law firms are stepping up investment in marketing and business development activities. Will this narrow the growing delta between rising demand for legal services and declining call for law firms? Short answer: not unless law firms address the myriad of reasons for client dissatisfaction as well as differentiate themselves.