THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY LAWYER
Every lawyer – regardless of seniority and regardless of the environment in which she or he practices – should feel empowered to help make our profession evolve. No lawyer should feel the need to ask permission to engage in innovation in the creation or delivery of legal services.
How have (A) the delivery of legal services and (B) the nature of the relationships between clients and lawyers been transformed over the last 25 years and by which trends and developments?
Now, Ask Yourself:
How will WE as legal professionals and clients, working together, transform (A) the delivery of legal services and (B) the nature of our relationships over the next 10 years? Will Siri or Alexa serve as a primary legal resource (including serving as an advice-rendering attorney) to further transform how legal services are delivered and how the relationships between clients and lawyers evolve?
Provoking Progress in the Legal Profession in the Twenty-First Century and Beyond
The legal profession is one in which the education programs, training and practice have been anchored in the use of precedent – in stare decisis – in looking back in order to determine how to move forward. Every day, legal professionals ask: “How did we do ‘that’ for a client before, and, based on how “that” was done before, “how can we do ‘this’ for a client now?” We ask these questions to fulfill specific assignments given by clients often within a specific “legal spend” budgeted by the client. However, trends affecting the legal services industry – chief among those trends, the technological advancements of the last decade – necessitate asking different, broader questions while keeping in mind the stakeholders of the legal profession. Consider some of the technological developments: machine learning (or “AI”), cloud computing, data aggregation, online legal services, legal form documents in all practice areas and virtual (or augmented) reality, among many other advances that have already impacted, or have the potential to impact, the profession.
Lawyers spend a great deal of time “looking at precedent” and “looking back” to frame how we work so much so that looking forward, in a way that is completely separate from what has transpired in the past, may seem like a luxury or may even seem foreign. Each of us individually, as lawyers, and all of us together – lawyers, clients and other stakeholders in the legal profession – must continue to look to the future, and ask: How can, and how should, we practice differently?
We need to reframe the “precedent-based” anchors of legal practice and reformulate the way we have historically asked the questions about how we deliver legal services to clients so that (1) we are mindful of the lessons learned from precedent; (2) we are guided by client objectives; and (3) we are empowered by the boundless technological possibilities – some of which we do not yet know – that will help us curate how legal services and client work products are delivered.
A key to reframing the “precedent-based” anchors and the “client-centric questions” of practice lies in initiatives deliberately designed (A) to facilitate collaboration between lawyers and clients in meaningful ways that establish unique relationships (at all levels within the firm) and (B) to deliver legal services and client work product in the most efficient ways possible, in each case by employing existing technologies and creating new technologies, without regard to the impact on billable hours. We should embrace ways to help clients create legal work product that the client is better-suited to provide than is a lawyer (or an external lawyer). In other words, we should empower clients as much as we empower lawyers with the solutions that arise from new technologies and other forms of enhancements in the process of delivering legal services and work products.
Frontier of the Law will:
Every lawyer – regardless of seniority and regardless of the environment in which she or he practices – should feel empowered to help make our profession evolve. No lawyer should feel the need to ask permission to engage in innovation in the creation and delivery of legal services.
We lawyers are professionals. Just like orthopedic surgeons and yogi, we become better at what we do through our practice. Because we practice knowing “precedent,” we are great at being able to draw upon the body of (historical) knowledge in order to help deliver legal services and create work product in the present. So, then, if we want to be good at innovation, we must encourage each and every individual lawyer – not just a firm or group of lawyers (e.g., the Chief Knowledge Officer of a law firm or corporate law department) – but each and every individual lawyer, to “practice” innovation by questioning, identifying and creating new ways of working, all of which ways of working, of course, fall within the scope of the ethical obligations we owe to our clients.
We hope Frontier of the Law will serve as a thought crucible for an already-existing and growing community of individuals who “practice” innovation, constructive disruption and the exchange of ideas. All constructive ideas are welcome! Welcome to this community on the frontier of the evolution of the legal profession!