July/August 2020

Editor's Note

Driving Innovation and Change in the Legal Industry

Mary E. Vandenack

The Big Ideas issue has long been one of my favorites each year. When we were planning the issue for 2020, COVID-19 was primarily in China and starting to impact Europe. Our editorial board, which was meeting in person in Austin, Texas, at the time, was almost joking when we suggested using the possibility of a pandemic to highlight the importance of law firm disaster planning. Shortly after our meeting, COVID-19 made its way to the United States, resulting in shelter-in-place orders. As I write this, my own law firm is primarily operating remotely.

While working with lawyers across the country through the COVID-19 crisis, I have learned that there are many law firms that still rely on paper and paper processes, are uncomfortable with electronic signatures and are unprepared for sudden removal from one’s physical space.

It is my personal hope that the COVID-19 crisis will be the force that drives innovation and change in the legal industry. I have long been an advocate for lawyers being the force that drives their profession on a path into the future. That can happen if lawyers embrace technology and welcome innovation.

By the time this issue is in print, those of us who have office-based practices will likely be working from our physical offices once again, but should be doing so with a renewed focus on the importance of disaster planning and managing a team—and how the skills required to do so remotely are different than those required in the office. Any law office that is not paperless should become so with no further delay. Innovation, automation and effective use of technology should become daily discussions.

In a disaster, a law office must be able to go remote and continue to function. Effective system access must be available. Effective system backup is essential. Security measures become more significant.

As we move forward from the dramatic shift in the way we work that resulted from COVID-19 sending us suddenly remote, we should carefully consider what changes we can and should make going forward. Law firms are likely to see different expectations from consumers and should position themselves to meet such expectations.

The articles in this issue of the magazine address a range of issues to be considered by lawyers evolving their law firms to meet a wide variety of forces impacting law firms. In “Building Your Lawyer Brand: Professional Identities in the Netflix Era of Law” Juda Strawczynski shares branding concepts that can be adopted in a changing legal world. Caitlin "Cat" Moon, in “The Case for the Delta Model for Lawyer Competency,” explains how lawyers can use the Delta Model to shape evolving legal practices. “The Dark Web, Cybersecurity and the Legal Community,” authored by Mark Lanterman, offers insights on how lawyers can prevent and be prepared for growing cyber threats to law practices. In “British Columbia’s Civil Resolution Tribunal,” David Bilinsky explains how online dispute resolution has developed. Ben Lehnardt and Anna E. Carpenter discuss “Re-Regulating Legal Services” in an unprecedented time of change. Finally, Jim Calloway uses the COVID-19 crisis to illustrate the importance of disaster preparedness in “Pandemic-Proof Your Practice.”

Mary E. Vandenack

Mary E. Vandenack is a founding and managing partner of Vandenack Weaver LLC, in Omaha, Nebraska. mvandenack@vwattys.com

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