Big Law Summit: Profession 'can and must do better'
By Nicola Laver
The legal profession has a lot to learn from the covid-19 pandemic – but the future is bright, the virtual conference was told
Mark Cohen, founder of legal business consultancy LegalMosaic, did not see the profession reverting to the normal ways of working after the pandemic.
Speaking on the first day of The Big Law Summit on the topic of ‘the new legal model’, Cohen said most people focus on “the hardship of covid which unquestionably abounds” – not just in the legal industry but also in society at large.
But he urged the profession to focus on what it can learn from “some of the bright sides of covid which are often overlooked in the industry”.
Some things are quite encouraging, he said.
“In a remarkably short period of time, some changes that have long been underway, but rather incrementally and rather discreetly are now coalescing; and what you’re seeing is the legal industry response to the challenges presented by covid and the corresponding change in the way legal services, legal education (and in the US, legal regulation) is being crafted”.
He pointed out that historically, people go to law firm for legal services; if you are a student you go to a law school; or if you are involved in a dispute you go to the courts.
“That was the practice until covid.” he said. “Then there was a very rapid and very dramatic move to tech platforms because, but for them, things would have come to an absolute standstill”.
The lessons for the profession are clear.
“There are tools, there are resources and other models and other ways of delivering and consuming legal services that are not so reliant on physical places”, Cohen commented.
“But rather, those places are turning into processes which can be scaled, accessed 24/7 365 [days a year].”
He said that these are the changes the profession will be beginning to see accelerate in the days, months and years to come.
In response to the question of whether the profession will get back to what we know to be normal, Cohen said: “Resoundingly not.
“Because today, the legal industry is no longer the sole province of lawyers dictating their terms to customers, but increasingly it’s customers and society more broadly that are saying to the legal profession, ‘you can and must do better’.”
Cohen thought that the shift in legal careers post-covid-19 “is going to be pretty dramatic… There’s a lot of opportunity.
“There are many different career paths that today’s young lawyers will be able to pursue.
“There are many things that lawyers have historically done which will be delivered instead of services [but] as products … maybe conducted by other types of professionals and not necessarily lawyers.”
He added: “The good news for lawyers is that they can combine their legal knowledge with other skills such as data analytics, project management and risk management.”
Lawyers will be “learning new tricks” and the future is bright for those who are prepared, said Cohen.
And though conceding that no one can dispute the fact that technology is going to change things dramatically, his view was that “robots will not completely replace all lawyers”.
“However, I do think as we go along we’re going to have to seriously look at what machines can do and what does that do to liberate the lawyers to practice… rather than do a whole bunch of medial things that people don’t want to pay for and that lawyers don’t want to do anyway.”
The Big Law Summit runs from 15-17 September 2020. See here for more information. The three-day virtual conference includes 28 speakers and 25 workshops. For access to the content archive and remaining sessions, visit: biglawsummit.com