What Does the Future Hold for the Legal Profession?

Part time lawyers? Practicing from the beach? Meetings in the virtual world? All of that is possible and on the horizon. It’s a brave new world – we will never go back.

In the year 1519, Hernan Cortes and some six hundred Spaniards arrived on the coast of a mysterious, new land in faraway America. Cortes understood that this was a brave new world, he wanted to motivate his troops and ensure a commitment to this new world, so what did he do?

He ordered his men to destroy their ships.

All of them.

Right now.

There is no escape, there is no retreat, there is no going back. You are all in.

Cortes knew that without the opportunity to escape, his men had to adapt to the new land and figure out a way to win. There was no other choice.

The legal profession is entering a brave new world – the virtual world. Although, the internet has been around for over 40 years and lawyers have used it to market, communicate, and conduct business for decades, our fundamental, office-based law practice never really changed. We were faster using e-mail and were able to save templates and handle some things more efficiently, but for the most part, the law practice was the law practice.  

This. Is. Different.

You know it’s different, everyone can feel it, the future is palpable. The game has changed.

You never had the ability to run your entire office from your home. You never had the ability to attend court virtually. You never had the ability to conduct depositions from your laptop, or even serve documents through electronic mail. All those things became a reality in a matter of a few months.

The idea of having to drive 3 hours for a simple court hearing? Ludicrous! It’s over, it’s done, the old world is gone. Burn the ships and go all in!

In the old world, running a law firm from your home carried a stigma (oh – she probably can’t afford an office, that’s why she works from home). Now, it’s the opposite. When you hear about a law firm creating a new office space or spending gobs of money on fancy digs, the first thought that comes to mind – oh, you don’t get it, you’re part of the old world. Why do that? Provide your team with a workstation at home and rent some small office space for those who want to come in. Go hybrid. Have rotations that come in on different days and you can get the same amount of work done with half the space and a portion of the overhead costs.

There are a million reasons to go all in. You can hire anyone from anywhere. Normally you’d either work for the best job you can find within a 30-mile radius or hire the best employee you can find in a 30-mile radius. Now? It’s a true meritocracy. Find the best talent. Find the best workplace. Anywhere in the world. Period.

Use technology to communicate with clients, staff, and the court. Texting is better than emailing, group chats on Slack dominate the tech world – the law world isn’t far behind.

The possibilities are endless. Think creatively, be aggressively forward thinking.

Our job as lawyers is to represent our clients in the best way possible. Whether you earn your fees on contingency or an hourly basis, it is ALWAYS in the best interest of the client to get that case moving and resolved as quickly and as reasonably as possible. How can lawyers justify charging clients hours for travel time anymore? Whether the bar enforces that or not, don’t YOU think that’s unethical? Or immoral? Be honest with yourself, be self-aware about what you are doing. Those that embrace this new world and stay client focused will win in the long run. Trying to cling to the old world for one last hurrah is a losing game. You know it. I know it. Everyone knows it.

A few years ago, asking for a Zoom deposition was met with laughter. Today? An in-person depo request is met with resistance. Why? Do we have to do it in person? What’s wrong with Zoom? Why can’t we appear remotely?

As it should be! Why do we do this to ourselves!?

Some people will never change, others will resist for as long as they can, some just want to hold off until retirement. This moment in time will be looked back on with nostalgia, those who adapted early will inspire envy. Imagine the first attorney who figured out how to use a computer, or embraced e-mail, or the first one to run ads online.

At the time they were all snickered at and discarded – it’s just a fad. That’s not the “right” way to be a lawyer. This cycle is repeating itself. Get in now or get left behind.

Don’t look back, there’s nothing left for you in the old world. The ships are destroyed, they’re gone. Navigate the new world with commitment. It’s time to go all in.

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