Change: The New Normal?

change the new normal  For some, change can be an invigorating and exhilarating challenge that is readily embraced.  For others, change is fraught with fear and will be resisted at all costs.  Most of us fall somewhere in between those two extremes: we understand the intellectual concept of change and the need for it, but we are very hesitant to embrace it.  Yet as Disraeli said, “Change is inevitable.  Change is constant.”

Until recently, the legal profession had not seen a great deal of change for nearly a century.  The technological revolution  that began in the 1990s and that led to the information and data explosion has ended that stasis.  Technology, data, and information retrieval are changing the practice of law.  Because of this, the ABA Journal has begun running a column, The New Normal.

Today’s column, More Lawyers Are Embracing Change–Even Though “Old Normalists” Are Still the Majority, made for interesting reading when coupled with Bill Henderson’s blog post, A Counterpoint to “The Most Robust Legal Market That Ever Existed in This Country,” at The Legal Whiteboard.  Both columns ponder the changes that the technology, data and information revolutions are imposing on the practice of law.  Both focus on the startup legal models that are resulting from these changes.

Paul Lippe’s ABA column reviews and discusses three recent future of law conferences that are dealing with change in the practice of law:  ReInvent Law, Forum on Legal Evolution, and Disruptive Innovation on the Market for Legal Services.  Lippe discusses the talks at these conferences from individuals such as Richard Susskind (Tomorrow’s Lawyers), Paul Dacier (general counsel from EMC), Ray Bayley (Novus), and William C. Hubbard, President-Elect of the American Bar Association.   Lippe concludes:  “Change is distributed.  Each of these events is another brick in the wall, and each time there are more people embracing change, even if change-ologists still remain a minority.”  He then directs the reader to Bill Henderson.

Interestingly enough, Henderson had a lengthy post on Monday in which he too discussed the changes occurring in the legal profession.  According to Henderson, these very changes require similar changes to occur in legal education.  Henderson was responding to  Rene Reich-Graefe’s essay, Keep Calm and Carry On.

Henderson views the days of the traditional practice of law, as seen the last 100 years, as operating according to a model that he describes as that of the artisan lawyer.  It is this model that is in peril now, giving way to what Henderson names multidisciplinary teams and low-cost providers.    Henderson then lists and names some of these new legal startups such as Exemplify, kCura, KM Standards, Legal Force, Lex Machina, LexRedux, Modria, and Neota Logic.  While none deliver legal services according to the artisan model that most of today’s lawyers trained under, all are new and thriving businesses that have recently appeared in today’s legal market.  Henderson urges law schools and legal education to begin the change needed to meet the changing legal marketplace.  He concludes with “…I agree we need to stay calm, I disagree that we need to carry on.  The great law schools of the 21st century will be those that adapt and change to keep pace with the legal needs of the citizenry and broader society.”

Lippe’s perspective, Change:  The New Normal, appears correct.  Stop by the library and check out some of our resources on the changing nature of the legal profession and the practice of law.

Hat Tip:  Paul Lippe, The New Normal, and Bill Henderson, The Legal Whiteboard

About Lisa Smith-Butler

Associate Professor of Law Charleston School of Law 385 Meeting St., Suite 322B Charleston, S.C. 29403 843.377.2144
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