Sunday, May 30, 2010

Future of Law


I received an email from an "integrated communications specialist" telling me about some new research on the legal profession. Legal recruiters, Badenoch and Clark, commissioned research on how associates and partners see the future of law and legal practice.
The expectations of law firm partners and their associates differ on a number of management issues, ranging from defining the skills required for future legal talent to succeed to how assistants should be paid and the challenges both groups will face in five years’ time...[and] relationships between associates and partners [are] coming under increasing strain.
The survey is based on a sample of 900 lawyers. It's clear among lawyers the recession has upset typical career routes. And interestingly in answer to where the responsibility lies for developing solicitors by 2015, the two main institutions are private practice firms and solicitors (61% and 32%). The academy is marginalized at between 3% and 6%.

This is reinforced by the skills that lawyers are considered to need now and in the future. They are:

Legal knowledge is fourth on the list. None of the other skills, I believe, are taught in law schools. (Which raises the question: what are law schools doing?) By 2015 generalist legal knowledge is replaced by "niche technical ability". This is another way of saying specialization and here associates were wary. Those who worked in structured financial products found themselves in receipt of pink slips and P45s and it seems instead of retraining lawyers partners would remove them. Knowing that one is at the mercy of the whims of the market in this way is a strong disincentive to over-specialize and associates expressed a strong desire to be generalists. But partners want them to specialize.

The survey lists nine areas of impact on the legal profession by 2015. They are ranked thus:

In my view the ranking of this list represents a limited state of knowledge on behalf of lawyers. I would have thought that the Legal Services Act and alternative business structures would have registered higher both now and in 2015. But it is good to see how the impact of globalization has been incorporated into their thinking. What lawyers aren't able to do is synthesize the effects of globalization and ABS and the Legal Services Act. The sum of their combined effects is going to be inordinately powerful.

My perception of what is taking place is that lawyers--both partners and associates--are somewhat aware of the changes coming through the legal profession. But they are abysmally ignorant about changes outside their narrow ambits. Lynne Hardman, in an article attached to the report, says the legal profession is in an analogous position to management consultants and advertising companies 30 years ago when they went from being fragmented to mega-concentrated institutions. Perhaps law will go the same way, but not necessarily. Only hindsight is going to tell us that.

A website to encourage discussion has been set up at www.future-lawyers.co.uk.
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2 comments:

Tim Kevan said...

Thanks for the link John. I've added you to my new blogroll too. Hope all's well. Very best wishes, Tim

John Flood said...

Looking forward to BabyBarista's adventures!