The legal industry will adapt instead of being disrupted

At the firm where I intern, there are 4.5 lawyers. One works half days and is half retired so he only gets to be counted as a half number. Of the 4.5 lawyers at the firm, how many do you think have computers on their desk?

All of them? Nope. Only 2 of the lawyers use a computer. The other 2.5 lawyers? They use microphones and tape recorders to dictate their written correspondences and documents. The secretaries then put on headphones, listen to the recording, and type what they hear.

Unbelievable! I can’t help but laugh. Sometimes I hear the lawyers mess up and have to rewind their cassette tape and find the correct spot to begin recording again. How inefficient and archaic.

But, this is how they did things back when these lawyers began their careers. Business has been good to them and they apparently never felt the need to “get with the times.”

The Lawyerist on legal disruption

The other day, Sam Glover from The Lawyerist wrote a well written piece entitled, “The Practice of Law Does Not Need to Be Disrupted.” (1) It is a good read. He is really tired of peopling talking about how ripe the legal industry is for disruption. Entrepreneurs are often the culprit and try to solve problems they know little about.

Here is one nugget from that article that I especially liked: “Law practice is also, at heart, a personal-service industry. (Nobody talks about disrupting the massage industry — at least not that I have ever heard of.)”

It’s true. Practicing law involves serving clients. The successful lawyers seem to be the ones who are known as experts, provide exceptional quality, and receive referrals from past clients.

The law is complicated

There is a reason why it takes 3 years of reading and lots of tests to become a lawyer. The law is complicated and challenging. It changes. Also, laws are different depending on location.

In the above mentioned article, Sam states that “the practice of law is regulated, making it difficult for non-lawyers to provide legal services without breaking the law.”

This is a big roadblock to disruption. Non-lawyers who provide legal services may be breaking the law. (2)

All of these things create entry barriers for some new technology to disrupt the legal field. I also believe that humans hire humans for complicated matters that are important, such as the law. There is something to be said for personal interaction and advice giving from a human. Can you imagine getting legal advice from a robot?

I can’t. But, I can see a day where we get our cavities fixed from a robot or even receive massages from a robot. Sorry Sam.

Back to my non-computer using story

Those lawyers in the firm that don’t use computers are getting old. They are very close to retirement. They have no real incentive to update their technology.

The young bucks in the legal industry will be taking over slowly. The new generation of lawyers have grown up with the Internet. They see the benefits of using computers. With them, they will bring modern technology.

It is my belief that we will see the practice of law adapt as the older generation retires. This is hardly shocking. The legal field will not be disrupted. It will change. But, it will not be disrupted. People want to receive complex advice and complex services from respected humans who have brains.


(1) http://lawyerist.com/practice-law-need-disrupted/
(2) http://www.forbes.com/sites/danielfisher/2011/07/25/non-lawyers-find-it-hard-avoid-breaking-bars-vague-rules/