July 01, 2020 The Big Ideas Issue

The Case for the Delta Model for Lawyer Competency

The pace of evolving technology requires lawyers to supercharge their competency.

Caitlin "Cat" Moon
A digital rendering of triangles layered over one another against a blue background.

A digital rendering of triangles layered over one another against a blue background.

via Dkosig / iStock / Getty Images Plus

I’ve often observed that my great-great-great-uncle, Elijah Hise, a lawyer who in the 1850s served as the chief justice of the (now) Kentucky Supreme Court, would likely feel quite at home in the practice of law in 2020. Other lawyers typically respond to my observation with quizzical looks and questioning. To which I note that but for a few widely adopted technology tools, the systems within which lawyers work today are all products of the Second Industrial Revolution—Uncle Elijah’s era.

While the rest of the world has evolved into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the legal profession and justice systems in the United States most decidedly have not. In fact, in many ways, we actively work against this evolution as we cling to outmoded ways of working along with legal regulatory structures and justice systems literally breaking from strain imposed by demands of the modern world.

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