Since I took the title of my sign-off post 18 months ago from the last album by my favourite band, I figured I’d take the title of this return post from the last line of my favourite book. Because in times of great change and upheaval, it’s dated pop-culture references that will hold us all together.
I’m sincerely glad to welcome you back to Law21 and to finally make my return to the blawgosphere. (Are we still calling it that?) I put this blog on hiatus back in December 2014, partly because I was edging towards burnout after six years of blogging, and partly because I wanted to write a book and I needed to clear the decks completely to make that happen.
I assumed, at the time, that since I wasn’t blogging, law firms wouldn’t call me about speaking engagements so often and I could devote enormous amounts of free time to writing. I also assumed that authoring a book was pretty straightforward, something I could knock off over the course of a few solid months. These turned out not to be the soundest assumptions I’ve ever made.
In the event, I’ve been kept busy over the past 18 months giving presentations (including to law firms, state bars, in-house lawyers, the ABA, CBA, LMA, NALP, and a few other groups) on the accelerating rate of change in the legal market. As well, I’m very happy to say, I’m close to completing the final draft of my book, and I anticipate a publication date sometime within the next few months. And as you’ve probably noticed, I’ve redesigned Law21 itself, expanding it from a blog to a full-scale platform for my business and a resource centre to which I’ll be adding free downloadable materials in the coming weeks. (A grateful shout-out to Rob Wilson of Stem Legal for the website build and to Mark Delbridge of Delbridge Design for Law21’s new logo).
I’ve also been fortunate to have had several report writing opportunities come my way over the last 18 months, and if you’re interested, you can find a selection below:
- For the Canadian Bar Association, I wrote a report titled “Do Law Differently: Futures For Young Lawyers,” which assesses the state of legal service delivery for the newest members of the profession and offers advice on the skills and experiences that the market will require from lawyers in the coming years.
- For the American Bar Association, I wrote a chapter titled “Client Change: The Age of Consumer Self-Navigation,” in The Relevant Lawyer: Reimagining the Future of the Legal Profession, a book that I highly recommend for anyone interested in changes within of the consumer and small business legal market.
- For Lawyers On Demand, I completed a trio of white papers with two reports, “Visit Legal: Your Travel Guide to the New Legal Landscape,” and “How To Be A Legal Marvel,” which are both geared towards helping young lawyers choose among a flourishing range of new legal careers.
- For the American Association of Law Libraries’ AALL Spectrum, I wrote a short paper with a long title, “Leveraging Knowledge, Technology and Process: Legal Information Professionals and the Transformation of the Law Firm Business Model,” which aimed to forecast the coming evolution of the legal knowledge professional.
- For the National Association of Law Placement (NALP)’s Professional Development Quarterly, I wrote a brief report titled “Have We Gone TFARR, or Not Far Enough? The Search for Lawyer Competence Standards,” which discusses threshold knowledge and skill standards for new lawyer admission in the UK, Canada, and the US.
But what I’ve really missed during my lengthy sabbatical is the opportunity to write for you, here at Law21, about the changing legal market. So you can look for two new posts later this week and two more the week after that, because it sure seems like there’s a lot to talk about in the legal market right now. Just in the last few months, for example:
- Artificial intelligence has taken over the legal profession (judging from breathless media reports, anyway),
- Non-lawyer ownership of law firms has become radioactive (thanks so much for that, Slater & Gordon)
- Gigantic accounting consultancies are about to consume the legal market (directed by Michael Bay, in theatres Friday),
- Legal Ops are rewriting the entire in-house counsel playbook (directed by, I don’t know, let’s say M. Night Shyamalan)
- Someone in New York thought it was a good idea to start paying first-year associates $180,000 a year (<eyeroll emoji>).
The funny thing is, though, that while it might look like the apocalypse out here, it doesn’t really feel much like it — at least, not judging from the lawyers and law firms I’ve been speaking with recently. I don’t see nearly as much denial and detachment as I have in the past — lawyers clinging to the belief that these are all just “isolated incidents” or “temporary conditions” or whatever other coping mechanism they developed to deal with all this craziness.
Instead, I’m meeting more and more lawyers who’ve developed a remarkable degree of sangfroid about legal market change and an admirable readiness to just start dealing with it already. Law firms are still making questionable tactical decisions for nakedly self-serving reasons, of course, but that’s a more or less permanent condition of the species. What’s different, from my perspective, is that there’s a growing consensus within the profession that the market really has changed for good, and so we might as well just accept it and start moving forward. It looks to me like lawyers are finally treating legal market upheaval the best way they know how: as a problem to be understood, addressed, and solved.
Altogether, this just seems like an exceptionally timely and opportune moment to get back into blogging about the law. So I really hope you’ll join me, up here in the cheap seats where the ushers rarely venture, as we try to make some sense of it all in the months and years to come. And thanks, very much, for holding my seat until I got back.