I have never lived in Southern California, but have visited often. More importantly, my son and family live there. I don’t know if they are more aware than me of the latest tremor, but I suspect I’m more sensitive than they. They have lived with the occasional rumble, shake and shift in the earth’s tectonic plates. I’m petrified that each one is “the” precursor to the next “Big One”.
When you live in an earthquake zone, you become acclimated to each seismic shift as if it’s nothing unusual and a mere fact of living in your preferred geography. The fact remains, the “Big One” is still coming and it will be life changing when it occurs.
So it is in the legal services industry. No tsunami has yet threatened our shores. But it is on its way.
The signs are everywhere.
Did you notice that legal operations specialists have come into their own and are beginning to build careers in legal system engineering, operations management and process improvement? According to the ACC, these professionals are now “sexy” in sophisticated corporate legal departments. A new ACC member section speaks volumes about the value of “legal ops” professionals. Merely a seismic shift.
How about the growth of law school initiatives addressing the innovations in law among students and practitioners? I’m proud to be a part of the Vanderbilt Law School Program on Law & Innovation. “POLI” is one of numerous law school efforts intended to increase the relevance of legal education and help provide instruction to those in practice who are dealing with these mini-quakes.
At Vandy, I have been privileged to teach the second annual course in legal project management. I can assure you, the “next generation” of lawyers is on the scene and ready to move forward in a big way. Unwilling to remain stuck in the “waste” business model of hourly billing, these new lawyers are looking to innovate and serve clients efficiently, with higher quality and at less cost than my generation. Not one student in the Vanderbilt LPM class was interested in working in Big Law . . . for more than a few years. They are looking at technology, public service and entrepreneurial ways of serving clients, even if done for a profit motive. Was that a tremor?
As Prof. JB Ruhl, the director of POLI, observed, under the tutelage of Prof. Marc Jenkins this term Vanderbilt law students developed “legal expert applications designed to assist five different public interest legal services organizations in their work”. The result was a public demonstration of client focused problem solving which practicing lawyers were hungry to have implemented in their work. Hats off to Marc, JB and Dean Chris Guthrie who is promoting a new form legal academy. Who knew that law students could solve problems experienced lawyers were unable to? Feel the earth shift?
And how do we even comprehend the rate of exponential change taking place in the global economy? As Peter Diamandis reminds us with amazing clarity, the near term future of economic opportunity can amount to as much as $19 trillion new revenue to be pumped into the world’s economy from over 50 billion Internet connected devices anticipating customer needs and pricing services in real time. A world of abundance, rather than scarcity? That’s a major fault line.
On and on it goes. The pressure is building. The tectonic plates are shifting. Should we run for cover?
Instead, how about joining the movement which is reshaping the law?