Andrew Perlman, Dean of Suffolk University Law School, spoke with BYU Law faculty and students about what the future of legal services will look like and what students should be doing to ensure they stay relevant and prepared for what lies ahead.
Intuit and Uber have automated professional services, changing customer expectations, and disrupting the space. The legal field is not insulted by this same automation. In fact, companies like LegalZoom are already creating new solutions that allow customers to create documents without having to hire a lawyer.
Conventional by-the-hour billing, bespoke services, and lengthy turnaround times are no longer cutting it with today’s customers. With technology speeding up everyday tasks, there is an expectation of improved efficiency in all areas of life, including professional legal services.
Microsoft announced in 2017 that it would step away from traditional billing arrangements and retain the firms it works with instead. Microsoft said it hopes to move 90 percent of the company’s legal work on to a retainer basis by 2019. Other companies are sure to follow suit.
If large companies are demanding flat rates instead of by-the-hour billing, firms and lawyers will need to adapt. There will be a greater emphasis on efficiency and automation. Students who have the skills to work with tools along the legal assembly line that promote quicker turnaround times will be in much higher demand.
Unfortunately, while firms are already looking for students with these skills, many law schools have not yet adapted. Aside from creating courses tailored to new areas of law and specialized legal skills, like drafting and research, the majority of schools still employ the case study method of legal study created by Christopher Columbus Langdell in the late 19th century.
According to Perlman, because we are inherently backward-looking as a profession, so is our orientation regarding legal education.
Perlman offered some practical advice to students in closing his remarks. While it’s still vital to learn the case law, it’s important that students take the time to familiarize themselves with technology. You don’t need to be a coder, but you must understand mobile technology and automation software so you can work with both speed and precision in the field.
Watch the full-length recording of Andrew Perlman’s presentation here: https://youtu.be/wPVJdPRIS_A
Written by John Ternieden (2L)