Seven Ways the Pandemic Will Forever Change Law Practice, 0720 SCBJ, SC Lawyer, July 2020, #26

AuthorBy Robert Ambrogi
PositionVol. 32 Issue 1 Pg. 26

Seven Ways the Pandemic Will Forever Change Law Practice

Vol. 32 Issue 1 Pg. 26

South Carolina BAR Journal

July, 2020

By Robert Ambrogi

As painful as this crisis has been for so many, many of the changes that will emerge out of it will be for the betterment of the legal system.

We are all experiencing the immediate impact of the Coronavirus crisis on our professional lives and careers. But how will this crisis impact the legal profession over the longer term? Will we eventually return to the legal world that once was?

I think not. Rather, I believe that many of the adaptations we’ve made here in the moment are already setting in motion changes that will permanently reconfigure the legal landscape. Further, as horrific and painful as this crisis has been for so many, I believe that many of the changes that will emerge out of it will be for the betterment of the legal system and those it is intended to serve.

Here are seven ways I believe the legal system will fundamentally and permanently change as the result of this crisis.

1. Lawyers will no longer see technology as something to be feared.

Two years ago in this column, I published a two-part article on what I called “the innovation gap,” or why the justice system has failed to keep pace with technology. In Part 1,1 I outlined six barriers to broader adoption of innovative technologies in law. In Part 2,2 I offered 10 suggestions for how we “reboot” the legal system.

What I saw then as the No. 1 obstacle to innovation was lawyers’ fear of technology, even as I acknowledged that it sounded simplistic to say. But it was true, and it remained true. Many lawyers persisted in their ignorance and fear of technology, viewing it as a threat to their clients and themselves.

Almost overnight, that has changed. I thought UK legal technology journalist Joanna Goodman put it best when; she wrote recently in The Law Society Gazette that the COVID-19 crisis has “reframed legal services,” and in the course of that, “technology has become a lifeline.”3

In a matter of a month, any lawyers who still harbored fears of technology have of necessity come to see it as a lifeline to the survival of their practices and their continuing ability to serve their clients. Going forward, that will fundamentally reshape the legal profession’s use and adoption of technology.

2. Lawyers will no longer see innovation as a threat to the ‘guild.’

In that same two-part article from two years ago, another obstacle to innovation I saw was that the legal profession is a protectionist guild that sees innovation as a threat. Like a game of whack-a-mole, wherever experiments in alternative forms of legal services delivery popped up, the organized bar would be at the ready to pound them down.

Even before this crisis hit, the organized bar was softening its hardball stance against new models and methods of delivering legal services. Regulatory reform initiatives in several states were the most visible examples. Even the American Bar Association, once seen as a bastion of protectionism, has in recent years become an advocate for innovation, as recently as February calling for states to consider regulatory reforms and legal services innovations.4

But the pandemic has dramatized, in ways no studies or committees ever could, the fundamental shortcomings of the legal system as it was. A rigidly structured guild system of courts and...

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