Legal market ripe for disruption
By Alan Bass and Michael Sauber
The legal profession has long resisted change that would disrupt the status quo, but the rising power of the buyer may be setting the stage for a new world of legal services.
Technology has been a disruptive force in industries as diverse as transportation and healthcare. Uber has redefined taxi service, Netflix almost singlehandedly eliminated video rentals1, and Airbnb offers an alternative to traditional hotels. Is the legal market next? Until now, it’s been stubbornly resistant to change. But, according to lawyer and entrepreneur Monica Zent, three significant new factors may soon drive changes that could create a very different legal landscape.2
- The gig economy: The freelance workforce is at a 40-year high. With technology enabling lawyers to work remotely and independently, more lawyers will feel empowered to go it alone. The virtual law firm will become a reality.
- The millennial workforce: Millennials have a different set of values than their predecessors, with an emphasis on work flexibility and work-life balance, including flexible hours and telecommuting. This generation will welcome technologies that free up time to spend on themselves and family.
- Savvy clients: Clients expect more transparency and demand greater efficiency for rote administrative work. If artificial intelligence and machine learning can streamline repetitive tasks such as search and form fill, clients will expect lawyers to embrace them.
Will these developments finally do away with the billable hour? Or will we move to a blended model, with standardized tasks carrying flat fees, and complex advisory work and representation billed by the hour? It may be too soon to tell, but what is clear is that change in the market is inevitable, and firms should consider how they will adapt or risk getting left behind.
1 Downes, Larry and Paul Nunes. Blockbuster Becomes a Casualty of Big Bang Disruption. Harvard Business Review. 7 Nov 2013.
2 Zent, Monica. 3 Reasons the Legal Industry’s Ripe for Tech Disruption. HuffingtonPost.com. 21 Mar 2016.