The legal industry has long operated as a clubby guild. Law firms dominated the delivery of legal services. They sold one thing: legal expertise. The practice of law was synonymous with the delivery of legal services. In the corporate segment of the marketplace, the legal buy-sell dynamic was simple and predictable. Corporations had a legal matter; they retained a law firm; the firm performed the work start-to-finish; and a bill was rendered. Rinse and repeat. That was the process for decades.
All that has changed. Technology, globalization, the complexity of contemporary multinational business, and the global financial crisis of 2008 have reshaped the way goods and services are bought and sold. (And that) applies to legal services, too. Law firms are no longer the sole source of“legal” services. Corporate legal departments and a growing array of legal service companies (read: providers other than traditional law firms) are taking on more and increasingly complex work once handled exclusively by law firms.
Legal practice—the core tasks that lawyers should perform–representation before tribunals, strategic elements of large commercial transactions, and work that requires differentiated legal expertise and/or skills– is narrowing. Legal delivery—-the “business of law”—is expanding. Legal delivery has become bifurcated—the “practice of law” and “the business of law.” This begs the question: What is the appropriate division of labor—who should do what—for providers and consumers of legal services? Legal delivery is no longer solely about lawyers—technologists, process and project management experts, and other service professionals and paraprofessionals are part of the legal supply chain. Technology—and those that develop and apply it to help solve relevant problems—is now a critical element of legal practice and delivery. The legal industry is entering the digital age.
Lawyers were not trained for this at law school. Nor did they learn about it while working at firms or in-house. Legal delivery is a whole new ballgame. And so too is legal education that faces a similar dilemma: how to narrow the gap between existing curricula and skills required by the marketplace.
These challenges are what I write, speak, and consult on. I demystify and integrate elements of the legal ecosystem, shedding light on how they fit together. This is a requisite to solving law’s “wicked problems” that include more accessible, improved legal services and legal education/training for a rapidly changing global legal marketplace.
It is, after all, a legal mosaic.