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…]
Miles van der Rohe, the noted architect, remarked: “Architecture depends on its time.” The same can be said about business structure–it depends on its time. A paradigm shift is occurring. Technology has enabled the creation of new business structures. It has facilitated a decentralized delivery structure, creating communities that connect sellers with buyers. This is sometimes called the collaborative or sharing economy, where individuals deploy underutilized assets—everything from cars and apartments to lawyers—to “share” with buyers. This eliminates centralized institutions that control supply and stifle competition by protectionist self-regulation. It has produced“ faster, cheaper, better” delivery of goods and services available on an as needed basis.
Michio Kaku, a noted theoretical physicist and futurist, predicts, “The job market of the future will consist of those jobs that robots cannot perform.” Robots have recently entered the legal workplace, performing several tasks once assigned to newly minted law grads. What does this mean for current and future lawyers? Simple answer: robots will not replace lawyers but they will work with them.
India is about to open its legal market to foreign-based firms. This is not a sudden development; India was a signatory to the 1995 General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) treaty of the World Trade Organization that paved the way. And though there will be limitations governing foreign firms’ ability to set up legal practices in India—most notably they cannot engage in matters governed by Indian law nor can they appear in court—they can set up offices there and are free to partner with Indian lawyers/firms to circumvent the aforementioned proscriptions.
Back in the late ‘70’s, there was a popular commercial where a young professional commented above the din of a dinner party conversation that his broker was E.F. Hutton. The room fell silent and the punch line was: “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.” Above the din of legal pundits (myself included) opining about shifts in the global legal market comes Deloitte’s June, 2016 research study on “Future Trends for Legal Services.”
Law has a distribution problem. Too many corporate firms vie for a shrinking pool of outsourced work. Competition is also fierce in the retail segment of the legal market where, paradoxically, tens of millions of individuals and small businesses are unrepresented while thousands of lawyers are unemployed or under-employed.