Thriving As A Lawyer In The Fourth Industrial Revolution

 In Gill's Blog

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Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum suggests we have already entered the Fourth Industrial Revolution. How do we lawyers thrive in such an era? In America a Tennessee law professor set up #MakeLawBetter to assemble as he called it an ‘army of innovators’ to spur and sustain legal tech innovation, particularly during the pandemic.

In the UK we have the works of Richard Susskind on ‘The Future of Law’ to help motivate us to be creative in the development of legal tech. One of Mr Susskind’s main concerns is how to bridge the gap between affordability and accessibility. As was indicated in a book I have recently reviewed, Mapping Legal Innovation, for many the cost of law relative to its perceived and actual benefits is out of alignment. We need to lower the transaction costs to make it cheaper to deliver law to more people.

So many firms seek to innovate but what does this actually mean for lawyers? Innovation for law should be working on the creation and delivery of legal oriented solutions that help solve legal and associated issues. In the field of Wills and Probate we have outside commercial operators who have developed products and services to help in the production of Wills and other documents, estate accounts, searching for assets and liabilities, searching for Wills, valuing property, finding missing beneficiaries, funding IHT and advancing money to beneficiaries etc. These have mostly been around in some shape or form for many years, but it is only now that we are reaching a tipping point where it is becoming odd not to use these services and products rather than odd to use them.

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As law firm aggregators and Big 4 Accountants make a bigger and bigger impact on law practice so legal tech companies and law firm product providers will increase their influence on the delivery of law and provision of access to justice.

Our systems of regulation and compliance will need to change to keep up with the way the world works. It is a collaborative world and collaboration will mean that creative multidisciplinary lawyers and other professionals may at last be enabled to work together for the benefit of clients in a manageable operational unit.

For too long it has not been easy to have a multidisciplinary business – or one stop shop. We can have parallel silos but from a regulatory point of view it is easier to have separate businesses regulated by their respective regulators.

The Legal Services Board asks for better standards in the legal sector, more transparency but why is it not looking at the means to provide a more integrated and multidisciplinary offering? This could provide the economies of scale needed to make service delivery more economical and therefore provide an even more competitive but properly regulated offering to more people.

For example, Farewill wanted to be regulated by the SRA to compete with law firms in disrupting the death market, as they say. But in order to attract investors to enable them to disrupt the market they ended up ineligible for regulation by the SRA, as they had more than 25% investment from non-lawyers. Rules like this form a barrier to innovation.

The design of better functioning legal processes costs money. Money which many private law firms could not engender from partners alone. Collaboration with law tech businesses needs seed investment to produce product plus service bundles. Anyone wanting to invest in such ideas may want a stake in the equity.

Maybe it is time we had a Dragon’s Den for legal innovation where entrepreneurial lawyers could explore new ways of working and fresh approaches to service delivery. Do we need a UK #MakeLawBetter? Should we at least start to collaborate with allied professionals in a more fruitful way for the benefit of our clients?

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