"The coming legal market will still require competent,
ethical, hard-working lawyers to solve problems and create value
for clients. But lawyer employment is going to acquire some new
characteristics. It will be:
- Agile, requiring flexible availability and multiple
- Technology-enabled, using tools that automate or
streamline repetitive processes.
- Multidisciplinary, delivered in conjunction with other
professionals and trades.
- Creative, invoking rarely used skills and talents that,
as it turns out, we actually have in abundance."
Please read more summaries from Jordan Furlong's study here: "The agile lawyer will rise as permanent,
full-time, salaried employment vanishes" and "The future of working in law: 'agile' lawyers,
entrepreneurs and smaller firms".
In light of Jordan Furlong's prediction it is also interesting
that Gartner recently released a report on the future of the legal
industry, "Gartner Legal IT 2020 - Smart Machines and LPO
Radically Disrupt Legal Profession", which is forecasting
significant changes to Legal IT and to the legal industry.
Many of the disruptions discussed are well underway, as also
described by Jordan Furlong, but according to the Gartner report,
there are new dramatically disruptive effects arising from the
accelerating adoption of legal IT.
Actually, the mere fact that Gartner is focusing on legal
IT pinpoints the importance of the topic and the technology
shake-up that awaits for the legal industry. A change
many BigLaw firms seem unaware of, or ill-prepared for, according
to a new analysis by Brian Inkster: "BigLaw is so behind the legal IT
"Apparently cloud is "probably the future for legal".
Probably! It is undoubtedly. But it is clear that BigLaw is way
behind SmallLaw/NewLaw on that front. It is, however, recognized
that the problem is that BigLaw has invested heavily in non-cloud
based technology and needs to "sweat their expensive IT
investments" before they can justify a move to the cloud."
In the article "After BigLaw and NewLaw, here comes MicroLaw"
Professor John Flood of Westminster University points to the fact
that one of the key problems with BigLaw is inherent in its name
it's big, and large organisations are hard to change. "A key
dilemma with BigLaw is that in essence it is a set of interlocking
networks that both vie and compete with each other. The result is
that fission is common, and fusion is less so. Its main form of
remuneration-profits per equity partner - enforces short termism
and low thresholds of loyalty."
Jordan Furlong similarly points to the "pent-up productivity"
that many law firms don't yet appreciate:
"What many law firms don't yet appreciate - but soon will -
is that a more modern and efficient deployment of talent and
systems to accomplish legal work not only reduces legal costs, but
more importantly, also increases productivity. The pent-up
productivity potential of better infrastructure, workflow, and
employment systems in the legal market is off the charts, and the
employment revolution… will play a key role in unleashing those
The need for Big Law to catch up with NewLaw is also evident
from recent law firm collapses such as Heenan Blaikie and others reported in our post
"Learning from law firm failures" and the
increased transfer of legal work by corporations such as British Telecom to NewLaw firms like Axiom. A
NewLaw firm that has already recognized this is radiant.law, with
an explicit focus on processes and technology to provide better
value and price certainty (fixed prices). Alex Hamilton, CEO and
founder, recently wrote about the firm's use of document assembly
to close high volumes of commercial contracts faster, "Document automation is legal rocket
"We have found that document automation is one of the
biggest contributors to allowing us reduce average contracting
times from weeks to days. Document automation is the perfect way to
start freeing up legal resources. The first drafts
often don't need legal review before being issued (completely
removing legal from the critical path), because the output is
controlled. And even where legal input is needed, it takes less
time as it can be focused on just the particular areas of
concern. In this age of "more for less", aren't there
better things that you could be doing than tailoring first drafts
of commercial agreements?"
The use of productivity tools like document assembly and
process-focus is well in line with the conclusion in both Gartner's
legal IT report that smart machines will radically disrupt the
legal profession and the study by Jordan Furlong that legal work
will be technology-enabled, using tools that automate or streamline
"A new world of legal work is coming, whether we
welcome it or not."
The question is how we respond to it.
Here are some further recommended reading on disruptive
technology and legal tech innovation:
If you want to learn more about Alex Hamilton's innovative
and rewarded work, do not miss the opportunity to participate at
the upcoming VQ Forum in Stockholm in October. Please find further
information here »