Firms that are adapting to the way the legal market is changing “will have to face the hard truth that their actions today won’t be understood for years”, an investigation into the future of the law has concluded.
But their reward will be “an opportunity to reshape the legal industry”.
Law 2023 is an American initiative conducted by lawyers and others involved in the market, which concluded that law is facing disruptions like those that reconfigured media, telecommunications and other fields.
“As in those industries, the changes will introduce unexpected challenges and unprecedented opportunities, and will undoubtedly produce new winners and losers,” they said.
The group spent a year spent mapping the most significant trends in technology, economics and cultural change in the law, and consulting a wide range of ‘big thinkers’.
Among their report’s key conclusions was that technology will enable lawyers to bill for real value.
“The most powerful new technologies will likely be developed by innovators outside the traditional legal industry who are incentivised to offer basic legal services for radically lower costs,” it said.
While this will initially cut into firms’ bottom lines, those that accept these changes “will be able to shift to premium billing as they perfect the high-value products only the most creative counselors can provide”.
Firms will also tap new talent and enable new pathways to practise, the report said. “The firms that prosper from volatility in the talent pool will be those willing to experiment with new paths to success. They will be willing to redefine traditional constructs such as partner, associate and of-counsel, while jobs like project manager and client service manager will become increasingly prevalent.
“New positions such as programmer, business analyst, industry advisor, etc. could be filled either by lawyers or professionals with other backgrounds. These new positions will organically increase firms’ intellectual and demographic diversity. Firms that adopt more flexible work practices and pay structures will be best prepared to compete with other industries for the capable people needed to fill these new jobs.”
The report predicted that firms will launch research and development departments to create new offerings: “The variety of demands on law firms will lead to a new diversity in the way legal solutions are conceived, packaged, sold and applied. Some of these novel legal products will immediately find vast markets; others could take years to catch on or turn out to be false leads.
“To keep up with the pace of change in the field, firms will create R&D departments that use product development methodologies to explore new ways of practising law. These departments will be tasked with imagining offerings that respond not just to changes in technology, but to shifts in industry needs and client preferences. They will also initiate ‘Skunk Works’ projects in which a small group within the firm is given greater autonomy in the name of rapid innovation.”
To read the full findings, click here.