photo-1447433865958-f402f562b843A couple of weeks ago, I shared HighQ’s eBook on Smart Law, addressing the question “What do you believe lawyers and law firms need to do to prepare for the future of legal services?” My response to their question is that firms need flexibility, and today and over the next few months, I want to look at what some of the other contributors consider to be essential to the future of the legal industry.

As I’m sure we all have our own thoughts on where the industry is headed and why, don’t be shy about sharing your answers to HighQ’s question in the comments, and responding to what the other contributors had to say as well! 

Caroline Ferguson: Curiosity & Innovation

Caroline Ferguson of Living Lawyers is a “finance lawyer turned driver for helping law firms embrace design thinking and technology.” So it’s no surprise that technology plays a big part in her response for what law firms will need in the future. But primarily, Ferguson challenges firms and lawyers to have two things that are not exactly traits that come to mind when you think of the legal industry…and that’s “curiosity” and “innovation.”

She says, in part:

We need to get curious about technology, design thinking and ways of working that have revolutionised other industries.

We need to get brave, experiment and get our clients to come along for the ride.

Innovation needs to be a fundamental part of how we operate and not just an initiative for a select few. We need to build environments that encourage learning, failure and learning from failure. Standing still in terms of developing skills and adopting new technologies is not an option.”

In an industry that’s more comfortable going with the status quo, and familiar with the line that “lawyers want to be first to be second,” how willing are we going to be to jump into being innovative and curious? Is it possible for us to jump into this brave new world with both feet because it’s the right thing to do for our clients and our industry, or are we going to squeeze our eyes tightly shut and hope that things will eventually quiet down and go back to the way that they were?

Ferguson emphasizes:

I believe that in order to prepare for the future of legal services, lawyers and law firms need to stand up and take a leading role in creating the future. Although there are a number of firms doing brilliant forward looking things, there is still an inertia that plagues most firms. Rather than waiting for external forces to push us to change (or worse, sideline us completely), we need to lift our heads from our paper laden desks and take action now. We need to put a genuine focus on client
value and get curious and brave.”

As she points out, there are already firms in the industry doing brilliant and forward-looking things – so there’s precedent that allows firms that are more comfortable with the status quo that ability to be the “first to be second.” But that is all entirely dependent on whether those firms believe that there truly is a tectonic shift in the legal industry, in the business world, and the way that we can all function, or whether there is still a rather sizeable group of people sitting around with their fingers crossed that we can still go back to the way things used to be. And that reminds me of a quote:

What if I told you 10 years from now your life would be exactly the same? Doubt you’d be happy. So, why are you afraid of change?”

Being a general fan of the status quo myself, this quote always gets to me. I’m sure we can all agree that while not ALL change is good, there are benefits to finding ways to being more efficient, more engaged, more client-driven and focused. So why are we so afraid of it? It sounds like Ferguson is onto something. To read her full comments, make sure to download the free ebook from HighQ and check out page 4.

Ivan Rasic: Open-Mindedness & Continuing to Learn

Not surprisingly to people who know me well, this is one of my favorite responses to the question of how law firms and lawyers can prepare for the future. Ivan Rasic of Legal Trek says that for lawyers and law firms to be successful, they have to always be willing to learn – I happen to think of that as good advice for life in general.

Specifically, Rasic says:

In my view, every lawyer, from a partner to an associate, has to keep learning about everything they do.

Regardless of your experience, the chance you have the best answer at all times drops by a vast margin. And it does so with each passing second, in this ever-changing world.

With your mind open, you will be ready to explore all the factors that will keep your law firm afloat and growing.”

He references the billable hour as one example, saying that when asked, most lawyers will say that they continue to use the billable hour because that’s the way things are done at their firm. Rasic points out that that’s not a valid enough reason to continue engaging in a practice, and he’s absolutely right. To be clear, there may be some instances where using the billable hour makes complete sense. But are you using it because there is a business case for it, and you and your client both agree that it’s the best option for you? Or are you using it because that’s the way you’ve always done things, and you don’t want to change them?

Rasic points out that this is just one example of the many practices that lawyers and firms engage in every day out of comfort for the familiar. We need to think critically about these things, as well as remain open-minded, to ensure that what we’re engaging in makes the most sense for our firms as businesses and for our clients in the ultimate goal of best serving them.

Rasic followed up his contribution to the ebook with an additional long article around this topic on “Law Firms vs NewLaw: How to face the future of legal services?” – it’s a comprehensive read, but very well worth it, so I encourage you to dedicate some time to digging into it.

These smart, thoughtful responses are only two of the themes that we need to explore as members of this changing industry, and we’ll continue to look at others in future posts. In the meantime, as I mentioned above, please add your own comments and thoughts below!