I recently spoke with Bruce MacEwen to get his take on a number of issues facing the legal industry and the practice of law. Bruce MacEwen is a leader in the legal consultant industry, having published nearly 2,000 articles on topics relevant to the field. He also founded Adam Smith, Esq. in 2003. Bruce has also written several books including most recently Tomorrowland: Scenarios for law firms beyond the horizon (2017).
In your view, what has been the biggest impact legal tech has had on the economics of practicing law?
Exposing clients to the ability to disaggregate legal services–supplying their demand for some legal services (expert counsel and advice, which is supplied by law firms) from others (document management and triage, which can be performed by a combination of technology and low-cost professionals).
What has most surprised you about the changes impacting the practice of law over the last 5 years?
That the pace of change has not been faster.
It seems to me that law firms traditionally hiring tactics have been based on the assumption that year-in, year-out, the economics of practicing law would stay the same, which is no longer the case. How can law firms recruit better and how can law schools better prepare their graduates to work?
Taking the second part of your question first, I have completely given up on any expectation that law schools will reform themselves in any meaningful way. The extremely long-term forces of inertia imposed by a tenured professorate will simply not permit any but the most incremental and gradual changes. As for the first part, firms will increasingly have to focus on the somewhat intangible characteristics of human beings that machines cannot substitute for–empathy, judgment, creativity, and so forth. These traits have traditionally been ignored at best and suppressed at worst in the course of traditional legal education and associate training.
Legal Operations is quickly becoming an essential piece of operating a law firm or in-house legal department. For someone new to Legal Operations, what would be your advice to someone wanting to implement its principles?
First, take a page from how other industries outside Law Land have optimized their processes; do not expect lawyers or business people with long tenures in Law Land to be able to suggest process improvements. Second, make sure you have not just a “seat at the table” but a “voice at the table.” If it becomes clear that you do not, leave. It will not get better.