With 97% of legal industry leaders acknowledging the necessity of a disruptive technology to reach the market, why is it that the legal industry is often touted as the ‘least progressive’ when it comes to industry innovations? Jay Edelson (founder and managing partner of Edelson LLC, which has secured settlements valued at over $1 billion the last 5 years) has been quoted as saying that “the legal industry has demonstrated an inability to embrace radical changes…we [lawyers] cling to rigid hierarchical work environments that stifle ingenuity, the free exchange of information, and job satisfaction…and, we refuse to let go of the notion that attorneys must be seasoned for years before they can meaningfully contribute.” Edelson even goes as far as to compare the legal industry with the rapidly failing newspaper industry. Whether or not you agree with Edelson’s view, there is an undeniable need to remove inefficiencies within the legal industry, so what’s been preventing this shift into the modern era?
An Unwillingness To Change
Hands-down the largest contributing factor to the stagnant status of the legal industry is law firm leader’s unwillingness to change. Although 97% of industry leaders acknowledge the necessity for a disruptive technology within the legal sector, merely a fraction have admitted that they have implemented any new product into their firm’s workflow. Utilizing research amongst in-house lawyers, Oxford Professor and author of The End Of Lawyers? Richard Susskind, has come to the conclusion that “lawyers who embrace emerging technologies and novel ways of sourcing legal work will trade successfully for many years,” whereas “those who are unwilling to change their working practices and extend their services will struggle to survive.” The message is clear: There is change coming to your industry. The only question you should ask yourself is, are you willing to embrace these ‘disruptions’ as positive impacts to your workflow, or will you continue to ignore them?
A Growing Justice Gap
It’s not hard to argue that nearly everyone recognizes a glaring justice gap within the U.S. What exactly do I mean by “justice gap?” simply put, there are literally millions of people who need legal representation, but simply are unable to afford the high hourly rates for the attorneys they need. These people often do not qualify for the limited pro-bono services available to the general public, so they’re frequently left in limbo, representing themselves in court. On the other hand, tens of thousands of lawyers are jobless, and law schools nationwide continue to churn out thousands of future-unemployed attorneys, flooding the industry even more. The recent recession, coupled with stronger global competition and rapid technological advancements have exacerbated this issue, making the legal industry ripe for positive disruption. The only issue? The legislation surrounding the practice of law obstructs innovative companies from being built that will progress the industry, resulting in the single biggest challenge to the legal industry.
Legal Limitations On Non-Lawyers
For the most part, lawyers argue that law should not be considered a ‘business,’ but instead, a noble profession for the betterment of man. Though this is a great (and many would argue, essential) view to hold, lawyers must also recognize that the professional regulations placed on their industry, largely due to this belief, somewhat extinguishes the market creativity that drives the modern economy forward. In other words, the limitations placed on lawyers via the code of ethics, and in some cases, even the laws themselves (many that date back centuries) are becoming clear obstructions to legal innovations and progress. If the legal sector wants to survive in this rapidly changing society, then they must be willing to reexamine these values within a contemporary context. For example, if I were to try and create a product that would combine tax and accounting processes to add a level of simplicity and convenience to the marketplace, then I would be faced with endless amounts of legislation with the regulatory determination that non-lawyers cannot participate in anything legal if there’s not a clear distinction between “law” and “not law.” The fundamental flaw here is that those who are business-minded are often turned away from the legal sector because of educational boundaries, which logistically make very little sense.
Reluctance To Adapt To Consumer’s Needs
First of all, leave your legalese at home. No one likes to feel inferior to anyone else, so why use a bunch of jargon when your client clearly has no idea what any of it means? There is absolutely no necessity to communicate that way, so why not express yourself in layman’s terms so there’s no language barrier? Other grievances include inflated hourly rates – which means that if your client has a brief question about something, they will be paying for an hour of your time (which is clearly not providing the value paid for by the clients). There are several generalizations (I dislike generalizations, but much of the general public views lawyers as a monolith) about lawyers that you should try to avoid at all costs, and if you do, I guarantee you’ll immediately start to see happier clients. Our friends over at Venture Hacks have compiled a very well thought-out list of reasons for why entrepreneurs are reluctant to trust lawyers that you should check out (and make sure that you’re not guilty of committing any of them).
Listen to Got.Law's CEO, Willy Ogorzaly, hypothesize on the future of law.