MY original motivation in writing my latest book, Tomorrow's Lawyers, was to provide young and aspiring lawyers with some sense of what the future might hold. When I studied law in the late 1970s and early 1980s, my fellow students and I did not anticipate major upheaval in the legal world. We expected law firms to grow but we did not anticipate major changes in the way in which lawyers would advise their clients or in the manner in which our courts would operate. In contrast, looking 30 years ahead, I think it unimaginable that our legal systems will not undergo vast change. I say this because I believe there to be three drivers of change that will combine to transform the legal landscape, radically and internationally.
My first driver of change is growing cost pressures on lawyers. I call this the "more for less" challenge--how can we deliver more legal service at less cost? This challenge is relevant for all clients, from general counsel in the world's largest corporations through to individual consumers. In these dismal economic times, the drive towards lower cost service is relentless. The second pressure will flow from the liberalization of legal services and, in particular, from allowing non-lawyers to compete in the legal marketplace. Although this liberalization is restricted today to a small number of countries, I predict that its global impact will be profound and many other jurisdictions will follow suit before too long. The third is information technology and especially the Internet. Technology is transforming the social and economics lives of us all. I see no reason that lawyers and courts should be immune from its reach. Crucially, though, the systems that are likely to exert greatest impact are "disruptive technologies". This means that they will not support, sustain, and enhance the way that lawyers and law firms have worked in the past. Instead, these technologies--such as online dispute resolution and intelligent search--will fundamentally challenge and change legal work.
In combination, then, the "more for less" challenge, liberalization, and disruptive technologies are set to bring greater change in law over the next two decades than we have seen in the last two centuries. Or so I claim. Accordingly, I think it important that young people who are planning to enter our profession are exposed to some thinking about the ways in which their careers might unfold. The future of law, I say, will be neither Grisham nor Rumpole. Rather, it will be virtual courts, diagnostic expert systems, commoditization, alternative sourcing, internet-based global legal businesses, web-based simulated practice, and much more.
What I try to do in the book, therefore, is to explain how and why there will be radical changes in the legal market, and what this means for law firms, for in-house counsel, for the courts and judges, and for consumers of legal services. I also try to offer practical guidance for young lawyers--on what new legal jobs there are likely to be, who will be employers of lawyers in the future, and what our law schools should be thinking and doing about the future.
Although the book was conceived as an introduction to the future for tomorrow's lawyers, when I asked various clients and colleagues to read early drafts, many said that it is also a useful primer for more seasoned practitioners.
In the words that follow, I discuss three topics that are central to the book and, I hope, of interested to lawyers everywhere--decomposing and alternative sourcing, liberalization, and legal education.
Decomposing and Alternative Sourcing
Over ten years ago...