The legal profession faces an avalanche of changes in the way it conducts its business. We believe that we are used to change because that is the nature of the law. We live in the ever-changing world of the courts, business, technology, and law. Now we are also experiencing a world where books are being replaced by e-books, where DVDs are being replaced by live streaming, hotels by renting rooms in people’s houses, taxis by Uber and cars. bank loans for peer loans.
What is changing for lawyers?
The following five trends are affecting the legal profession:
- Outsourcing: This trend has already impacted other professions such as accounting and is now impacting the legal profession. Some litigation and legal support tasks, such as coding and document review, are being outsourced, saving you time, money, and the need for some skills.
- Artificial intelligence: Legal research has been done online for some time and it already reduces the amount of time research used to take. But the quality of what is available to us in terms of legal research is about to change exponentially with the advent of artificial intelligence. Legal software will only get smarter at predicting failures, conducting research, and recommending courses of action. While it will make our roles much more efficient, it will also bring a whole new set of challenges in how we bill clients and how we make sure the advice we provide is correct and up-to-date. We will still need to know if something has changed in the last few days that will not have been incorporated into the predictive software at the time we are giving the advice.
- Social mediaIt has now become part of how we market our legal services, how we hire, how we conduct research on the people we are hiring, and how we collect evidence to support our client’s position. It will only be more so in the future.
- A multigenerational workforce: For the first time in history, we now have four generations working side by side in the legal workplace. We have traditionalists, baby boomers, Gen X and Gen Y working together. People are now working longer, and that means that in some places there is a generation gap of more than 50 years between the youngest and the oldest employees. This requires levels of tolerance, understanding, and communication that we may not be used to.
- Alternative billing models: The traditional billable hours model was not popular with our customers and was seen as a rewarding ineffectiveness. As smart software becomes more common, it will bring more changes to the traditional billable hours model. The value of our advice will no longer have much bearing on the time it took us to provide it to you.
Deloitte’s global research has found other problems from a worldwide survey of legal clients. Almost half of all interviewed legal service providers indicated that compliance, mediation and arbitration and litigation were growth areas in their businesses. However, the same researchers also found that loyalty to a law firm was not guaranteed. More than half (55%) of those interviewed said they had recently reviewed their agreement with their legal provider or would do so within 12 months.
Deloitte also found that what people wanted from their law firm was changing. Rather than pure legal advice, clients also wanted their attorneys to have more experience in the industry, commercial or non-legal. They thought it would be helpful if they had digital, data, privacy and cybersecurity skills and if they were more proactive in sharing knowledge. Eventually, this can result in law firms having partnership agreements with other professions so that clients’ needs can be more fully served.
Interesting changes that have already happened
What changes have I seen professionals undertake already? Here are some:
A non-profit family law firm where profits are donated to a suitable charity or returned to the organization or staff, rather than being paid to partners as profits.
The use of emoticons in correspondence by a law firm because putting a happy face at the end of an email ensures that the other party knows that you are not looking to escalate a dispute.
The formation of solid networks with other professionals who can derive work or vice versa. These networks can include anyone from accountants, bankers, financial planners, insurance and stock brokers to healthcare professionals. You can form these networks informally or with regular monthly gatherings where everyone invites their clients to meet and say hi.
A firm has a ‘digital festival’ every six months to keep clients updated on relevant technology and any relevant legal issues or risks associated with its use or not.
Apps that help people track what stage their file is at (for example, text alert when the search is sent to a government department or when the lease is sent to the tenant), when is their next meeting, government agencies with whom they will have to communicate for different problems, etc.
Strategic positioning of law firms in non-traditional physical locations, such as health or innovation centers.
How do we mindfully cope with this amount of change?
Lawyers are traditionally conservative. We have a way that we are used to being perceived, a way that we dress and speak, a way that we expect our office furniture to look, and a standard approach to how business is done … practically, as it always has. been. Now we are being asked to change things and make changes in the way we do business if we want to remain relevant.
Change can be a good thing. If you are old enough to remember black and white television, the cassette tapes you had to roll up with a pencil when they broke, floppy disks or fax machines, you will know what I am talking about. Have you ever sold your home? Did you get into a frenzy of cleaning, throwing away, moving furniture to new places, and repairing things that you had endured for years? After everything was done, did you step back and look at this gleaming house and wonder why you ever thought selling and moving was a good idea? Your legal practice could probably benefit from a similar cleanup, repair, and restructuring. Instead of seeing these changes as an interruption, what if you saw them as an opportunity to update?
Our very human reaction to change is to see it as something bad or threatening. After all, that’s what kept us safe when we were evolving. Every change in our environment was a potential threat to our existence. Mindfulness asks you to see the change, just like the change. It is neither good nor bad, it is simply a change.
Mindfulness also asks you to recognize that change is required and to accept what that will mean. Acceptance means not criticizing the need for change, but accepting it and determining step by step what can be done about it.
Starting with small changes will make it easier. Pick something relatively easy, like building your referral network by one person per month, and start there. Every step you take will count. After you’ve taken a couple of smaller steps, you could tackle something bigger, like social media, for your business, if you haven’t already.
The changes that are coming our way are neither good nor bad, they are simply an opportunity for us to do our business better.