“Much of the ‘knowledge’ of lawyers can be acquired and accessed by many other means. The only thing over which a law firm has an entrenched monopoly are those aspects of risk and ‘assurances’ to the client that there are disciplinary consequences for a firm or lawyer’s negligence or malpractice.”

This quotes comes from Remaking the law firm ecosystem by Aron Solomon and Jason Moyse in Canadian Lawyer (4 July 2016). The authors argue that “While law firms can and will be remade to varying degrees, the external ecosystem is going to accelerate more nimbly and with greater velocity”.

I agree. Solving client legal problems requires more than law. Many skills contribute to solutions, including data analytics, PR, technology, accounting, engineering, and science.

I realized this yesterday when I caught up with an old friend who is an IP law professor. He is doing interesting patent analytics work with US patent data. He has experience both with machine learning / natural language and statistical analysis of patents. We commiserated on the challenge of  understanding these disciplines. I shared that I had tried reading a computational linguistics journal article on natural language processing but could not understand the first sentence. And I’ve had three years of college majors math, including a semester each on probability and statistics.

My professor friend and I agreed that there is no point in lawyers trying to master the details of many other disciplines. Rather, it’s easier to teach other professionals what they need to learn about the law to help lawyers. (Indeed, we even agreed that “there’s less there than meets the eye” about law.)

So reading the Solomon and Moyse article one day after that conversation, I realized that the meme of lawyers working more closely – and equally – with other professionals is spreading. The breakdown of the legal caste system is slow and, for many, painful. But it needs to happen. It will happen. Clients drive it.


End Notes:

  1. Last week I articulated similar points in a webinar hosted by HighQ on Smart Law. Recording at http://offers.highq.com/webinar-smartlaw-the-future-of-law
  2. For those who object to the concept of “law, less there than meets the eye”, try a thought experiment. For a reasonably well educated person, what do you think would be easier to explain: contracts, torts, or even the basics of securities law versus statistics, engineering, or accounting. If you think the latter, write a comment here to explain.