Several years back my law firm decided we had to determine how we were going to succeed in the changing legal market. Technology was replacing the jobs of legal assistants, paralegals and young associates. While technology played a role in the changes we were experiencing, it wasn’t the sole cause for the shifting legal market. Simultaneously, tort reform was being implemented and taking hold. Filed claims were down 40 percent. We were also experiencing consolidation in the marketplace. Large firms were buying up some of the best lawyers from midsize firms, and our client base was joining large corporate organizations. It seemed that the clients no longer had control over who to use as counsel.
As a result we had to identify where we wanted to be in 10 years and how to replace business. There wasn’t an immediate impact on our business, but it was imperative that we developed and implemented a plan to address the shifting landscape. The practice of law was changing, and we needed to adapt. We recognized that the challenges offered us an opportunity to develop new practice areas and to reposition for the future. Today we remain a robust practice with new areas of expertise. This issue of Law Practice challenges us all to look at the future of the practice of law and how we can remain relevant so that we can continue to practice in a profession we have enjoyed up to this point.
This issue of the magazine opens with Heidi Alexander’s “Easy Automation.” In it she introduces readers to automating documents, scheduling, sales, workflow and communication (both when in-house and on the road), thereby leaving more time to actually practice law. Darrel Pink follows with “Looking Back on the 2020s: What a Decade” in which he hypothetically posits some of the changes in the practice of the law that will occur during the next 10 years. In Dennis Kennedy’s “Smashing Through Your Barriers to Breakthroughs,” he pinpoints several of the obstacles that lawyers erect that keep them from innovating and then highlights some ways to get through those blockages. In “Robotic Automation Can Improve Your Practice,” Andrew Pery and Michael Simon discuss robotic process automation and how it can be put to use to streamline lawyers’ tasks and make them more efficient. Next comes Patricia E. Hong’s “Technology Is Useful, Relationships Are Essential,” in which she acknowledges the benefits of technology in the legal workplace but argues that the personal relationship between lawyer and client is paramount. And, lastly, Lance Johnson offers “Emerging Practice Areas in the Foreseeable Future,” in which he touches upon some of the upcoming hot topics that will offer new opportunities to practice law, from smart machines in our homes providing in-court “testimony” to the many possible legal developments involving cannabis and hemp.
This is my final column as the editor-in-chief of Law Practice. It is with great confidence that I hand the reins of the magazine over to Mary Vandenack, who trained me and taught me about the future of the practice of law. I am thankful for the opportunity to have worked with the magazine and will continue to avidly read each issue as it is released. Special thanks to the Imagination Publishing team, especially Kristen Menke, who walks each issue from proofs to publication, and to John Fallahay, who tirelessly edits. I also want to thank John Bowers, who preceded me as editor-in-chief, for allowing me to serve in this role. In addition, a special thank you to Lance Johnson, who always had my back. And each issue would not be possible without the tireless work of the volunteers of the Law Practice Division. A final thank you is extended to each member of the editorial board.
Heidi A. Barcus, Editor-in-Chief
Thanks to our Issue Team: Jim Calloway, Lance Johnson, Dan Pinnington and Susan Letterman White