This year at the Legal Tech conference the keynote address was by Jim Calloway, a law practice management guru, who serves as director of the Oklahoma Bar Association’s Management Assistance Program. The highlights of his much heralded address on the future of law practice is now a podcast that is worth listening to. It runs less than 15-minutes.
Here’s a brief synopsis of what it contains:
- Supply and demand is catching up with lawyers. There are too many lawyers*, new law schools being created (with ABA scrutiny being “less than rigorous”) since they are money-makers for universities, and, most importantly, there aren’t enough jobs. According to the upcoming book Failing Law Schools by Brian Tamanaha law schools are producing 45,000 new graduates annually, while it is projected that there will only be 25,000 legal jobs available per year through 2018; and
- Technology is changing everything from online non-lawyer documents to virtual law firms.
So, what are smart lawyers to do? According to Calloway:
- Pay attention to what is going on in the industry. There is a new normal, and lawyers need to be tuned-in to trends (and reality I might add);
- Focus on legal project management and legal process management to be more efficient, and generate legal products/documents from “A to Z” to be at the ready— so lawyer time is spent on what is unique to a matter, rather than the repeatable routine; and
- Recognize and utilize the digital world in your workflow. Although the paperless office never did (or will) happen, adopt more computer files on your network and Internet to be accessible to everyone who needs them, and so they are available remotely.
Bottom line: the legal world is changing in many ways, including downward pressure on fees. Unless lawyers are more efficient (via project and process management), develop better systems to work smarter and in less time, and accept alternative fee structures (e.g., fixed fees) that work for clients and for lawyers, the new normal ain’t going to work so good.
And that’s where marketing comes in. If lawyers accept the new normal and adapt to it, including with systems, document assembly and greater efficiencies, and let clients/referral sources/prospects know about it, they will be more successful in landing all the work they can handle.
*Sharon Nelson, president-elect, Virginia State Bar interjects that 22% of law students think it’s “a bad idea to be in law school” in light of the climate for jobs.