Law Firms of the Future – Discussion Analysis

A group of leading innovators and law firm representatives came together to discuss progression measures towards the ideal state of future law firms, led by Legal Futures and LexisNexis Enterprise Solutions.

Several topics were introduced, pertaining to innovative tactics, shifts in the legal industry, law as a business, analysis of the numbers, and the significance of the human element and interpersonal relationships in the legal industry. As each participant had a different professional background, several new and contrasting perspectives were offered pertaining to their desired state of future law firms.

Law firms must rely heavily on innovation in order to maintain and expand their success as the times evolve. Yet, in a society in which many businesses have used their energy and resources in rapid development, many participants reinforced the idea that lawyers cannot neglect the basics. Essentially, they cannot downplay the human element of law. Technology cannot create intuition, judgement, emotion, and set precedent. The legal industry must avoid polarization, and maintain a healthy balance between the human and innovative element to create optimal results for the future of the field.

Everything in the legal field is in constant evolution; even the job descriptions of associates, partners, and equity partners have changed. Dynamics within firms have shifted to better serve the clients of today. With that being said, law firms are no longer specialized in their expertise. A law firm is now being treated as a business model, which requires marketing, pricing structures, personnel, and employee training and development.

Legal tech is penetrating the field, causing many law schools to introduce coding courses to keep up. Prospective lawyers are also expected to have a substantial comprehension of economics as well. Nowadays through legal tech, more and more people have access to legal information, but what sets a law firm apart is the expertise and the professionalism on the business side of the matter. Slowly, technology is replacing the systematic work, such as data analytics, of a lawyer, so it is important for firms to continue differentiating themselves and emphasizing their added value. Many firms are employing COOs to make their practice more business-like.

The key to the survival of this industry is for lawyers to never lose sight of doing work they enjoy. In times of faster, more efficient ways of processing information, lawyers will either abandon their extensive critical thinking, or find clever tasks to do to advance the quality of their work. The latter decision will validate that increased innovation is actually a good thing for the field.

Besides legal tech, another method of productivity is a capped fee. As the rates are no longer hourly, lawyers will be motivated to work at a much faster pace and the freedom to exercise more authority in the case. Clients aren’t as paranoid about excessive hours and spending, so they are then less invasive on the legal process. Though such pricing may seem like a financial loss, it is essentially an investment in time which will expand their margins in the long run.

Alison Burdick, head of marketing at a well-known law firm, predicts that the legal landscape will be completely different in 15 years. The average person will have greater access to law, yet they won’t know what to do with the knowledge. That is why legal expertise regarding other people, judges, past experiences and knowledge of the market is a timeless commodity. Do not discount the passion that goes into law, as no innovation can duplicate that.