In this week’s edition of Things I Wish I Knew, New York lawyer Joleena Louis shares her opinion on the future of law, and how to ensure that your practice will always survive and thrive.
Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about my thoughts on the future of the legal profession. And unlike many of my colleagues, I’m very excited about it.
Some other lawyers fear how technology and changing best practices will affect the industry. I believe that advanced technology and increasing competition will only improve the practice of law. With new technology, we will be able to do more work in less time, and increased competition will force us to provide more value to clients.
The three things I think lawyers need to think about when considering the future of law is digital disruption, the commoditization of legal services and the changes to competition.
For lawyers, digital disruption is the change that occurs when new technologies and business models affect the value proposition of your existing legal services.
One great example of this is the chatbot lawyer. This is an online system that is programmed to help solve simple legal disputes, like parking tickets, without the need to go see an actual lawyer. The chatbot DoNotPay, has help clients win got over $160,000 from traffic tickets in London and New York.
The fear is that technology is going to change the practice of law in a way that benefits clients but is detrimental to lawyers. While this might be true for some simple scenarios, there will still always be a need for physical interaction with lawyers who are experts in their field.
Legal Services as a Commodity
Another fear many attorneys have, especially small firms and solos, is that the legal profession will become too commoditized. Driving rates down to levels where it becomes impractical to continue working in law.
The basis of this fear is that websites like LegalZoom, Avvo, and Rocket Lawyer have made legal documents such as wills, trusts, leases, incorporations, and contracts, readily available at extremely low prices. As technology improves, it makes sense to be concerned about commoditization spreading to more practice areas.
But much like chatbot lawyers, these DIY legal document providers can only do so much. When client’s issues become more complex and too difficult for them to handle, they will turn to you.
How To Survive and Thrive
Remember, no matter how advanced technology becomes, there is always going to be a demand for expert human interpretation. The real issue is going to be increased competition.
In my opinion, the best way for a solo or small firm to survive and thrive is twofold.
First, we need to be willing to adapt to new technologies and law practice models. Especially those that allow us to do more work efficiently and in less time. Examples of this include more advanced project management software or networking tools.
Firms that refuse to adapt to new technology will face increased competition and will be left behind.
The second way to survive and thrive is by narrowing your practice area to a specific niche. Be the go-to person for certain types of cases. Even if a client gets a basic will online for free, an expert will always be needed for more complex estate planning. If you become really good at one thing, there will always be a need for your service. Thus lowering the competition against you and your firm.
The future is coming and you can choose to be afraid or figure out how to survive and thrive. These tips will help make sure your firm stays on tops, no matter what the future holds. Does the future of the legal profession excite or frighten you? Let me know in the comments below!