Brave New World? The legal sector in 2025

Alastair Beddow, Associate Director at Meridian West, attended the  Law Firm Leadership Forum 2014, a conference for law firm leaders debating the future of the legal industry and the forces that are going to radically change the profession over the next ten years. Alastair writes his thoughts below:

Across a day of very wide-ranging debate, discussion and ideas-sharing three things stood out.

1. The days of the partnership model are numbered. A straw poll among attendees revealed that almost everybody predicted the demise of the partnership model by 2025. The rise of ABS, the need for more agile decision-making and sustainable governance in law firms, and the potential to raise capital for long-term investment were commonly cited as factors accelerating this trend. Even so, the strength of feeling and consensus on this point was surprising.

2. Technology is a fundamental disruptor to legal services. Keynote speaker Richard Susskind put forward technology as one of his three fundamental forces shaping the sector over the next decade. We have yet to really realise the potential of automation and innovation for the delivery of legal services he argued. Technologies such as IBM’s Watson will radically change the way we think about what a lawyer does and should do.

3. In-house legal teams are grappling with business risks, not just legal issues. For somebody who regularly interviews General Counsel at leading corporates and banks, this point isn’t new. However, a panel session with contributions from in-house counsel at Barclays, Unilever and really brought the point home. They are looking at commercial problems through the widest possible lens – not just a legal one – and are reshaping their internal teams accordingly. They want external lawyers to innovate too, but to do so quickly.

Whatever your role it’s an exciting time to be in the legal sector. Do you agree with these three trends? How are they playing out in your firm? What other things should law firms watch out for over the next decade? Leave your thoughts below.

Alastair will be sharing more views and insights about the future of the legal sector and how firms can respond to these changes with Ben Kent during a breakout session at this year’s PSMG conference on 19th November 2014.

[This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.]

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