The legal profession’s rapid changes make it difficult to discern what the future holds. But one concept that’s worth pursuing is “law new.” The term describes strategies to offer help that traditional law firms might otherwise overlook. It can include working with underserved communities, creating a model that delivers help to clients in different ways and devising strategies that have never been part of traditional law practice. It’s not an approach that can be easily defined, but it offers lawyers a way to generate value and client satisfaction in a growing sector of the market.
This Article explores the new path to legal help that many firms and ALSPs are taking. It argues that the success of “law new” will depend on whether it produces change that is impactful to legal consumers and society at large. The prevailing focus on internal efficiency and cost containment, as well as the industry’s propensity to favor established business processes, are unlikely to produce this.
A new generation of legal buyers has grown up with a very different attitude toward their lawyers. They expect legal services that are collaborative, transparent, accessible and affordable. They also want them delivered quickly and effectively, and to a standard that includes solutions to complex issues. The “law new” concept can be an effective means to meet these demands, but it will require the legal field to shift its perspective and embrace a fundamentally different mindset.
The legal function must become a trusted partner to the wider enterprise and society by providing expert risk identification and mitigation, reducing the costs of litigation and other dispute resolution, and driving more informed business decisions. To achieve this, it needs data agility—mastery of the prime value elements of data: capture, unification, applied human and artificial intelligence, visualization, real-time refresh, and decision driving. This will enable the legal function and its cross-functional enterprise colleagues to be proactive in identifying, eradicating, and mitigating risks, freeing management to focus on core objectives, and facilitating new business opportunities.
The legal field has been slow to adopt these requirements. In fact, it’s only now beginning to do so. Many legacy legal stakeholders, particularly those nearing retirement age, see “new law” as a threat to their livelihoods. They are right to be concerned, but they must also realize that the future of the legal profession lies in collaboration with customers and society. The legal function’s future will not be dominated by solo or small firm practitioners, but by corporate Goliaths with the brand, capital, scale, know-how, customer-centricity, data mastery, tech platforms and agile, multidisciplinary workforces that drive innovation and create value for the legal industry.