♬ What’s happenin brothers and sisters?
Welcome to our time…♬
Lyrics, music and recorded by NAS.
Last year on Dec. 31, 2010 I posted a Top 10 Legal Tech Predictions for 2011. This year I asked my very good friends and colleagues to contribute their top Tips and Predictions for 2012 thinking that this would be a great way to get some perspective on the New Year. The response has been overwhelming! Accordingly, here is Part 1 of a three-part blog post containing their top advice and predictions for the coming year. But this isn’t the end – I will add in my own tips and predictions for 2012 at the end of Part 3 (can’t help but go out on a limb as well) and ask that you, good readers, add in your own tips and predictions by way of comments on the three blog posts.
Accordingly, here are Part 1 of the Tips and Predictions for 2012!
Karen MacKay: Change is Neigh…
There will be more change in Canadian law firms in 2012 than we have seen in the last 3 years. In Canada, we will see more mergers and spinoffs. Lots of change happened in the USA in 2011 that was forced on them by the economy. The difference between what happened in the USA and Canada will be: The change in Canada will be created by strategic decisions within firms seeking opportunities rather than the financial change that was forced on the American firms.
Mitch Kowalski: 2012 – A Turning Point for the Canadian Legal Profession?
When I ran for Bencher in Ontario earlier this year (and was utterly thrashed at the polls!) I did so because I believed that the next ten years are critical to the future of the legal profession. Six months later, my view has not changed.
All over Canada, the legal profession faces challenges it has never faced in the past – and the challenges will only become more numerous. Richard Susskind was right on point when he wrote, “Law does not exist to provide a livelihood for lawyers any more than illness exists to provide a livelihood for doctors. Successful legal business may be a by-product of law . . . but it is not the purpose.”
As lawyers we must constantly earn our right to retain a monopoly over the practice of law. It should never be assumed that we will always have the exclusive right to give legal advice, prepare legal documents, close transactions or even appear in court. One just has to look to the U.K.’s Legal Services Act which is dramatically transforming that jurisdiction’s legal profession. Or, take a look to Australia with Slater & Gordon being the only publically-traded law firm in the world – a firm that was once based on a strong litigation practice but is now aggressively moving into commercial practice areas.
Canada cannot remain an island of lawyer-exclusivity for long – particularly if the legal profession shows itself to be incapable of coming up with creative and efficient ways to make legal services better, faster and cheaper. The commercial pressures of the global economy are too great to ignore and lawyers who stick their heads in the sand will become the dodo birds of the 21st century.
I hope that 2012 will be a watershed year in which meaningful change will finally commence to surface throughout Canada’s legal profession. The following are eight predictions of what can (and should) occur over the next 12 months.
We are beginning to see smaller firms and sole practitioners moving their practices into the cloud to gain efficiencies and flexibility. In 2012, I believe that at least one mid-sized Canadian firm having more than one office will move its practice into the cloud.
One law society or bar association will begin working with one or more cloud services providers to certify compliance with the rules of professional conduct and to give guidance on encryption to lawyers.
A growing lack of articling positions coupled with the exceptionally high cost of legal education will force law schools and law societies to break out of their silos and work together. Currently law schools and law societies operate along parallel tracks which (of course!) never meet. This is dangerous for the profession.
I believe that by the end of 2012 at least one law school will begin to review the feasibility of a co-op program that includes articling within its curriculum such that upon graduation a student is immediately eligible to write local bar exams. Such a co-op program may consist of a half-day of school and a half-day of articling at a firm within the same city as the school. I predict that the first law school that does this will experience the highest-ever number of applications for any law school in the country.
One forward-thinking Canadian law society will seriously examine alternative business models and the implementation of outside investment into Canadian law firms and determine that, among other things, they will enhance access to justice. Access to justice is a growing problem that both government and the legal profession have proven themselves unable to remedy – mostly because of the high cost of legal services. With a new business model and outside investment, I predict that access to justice will dramatically improve. New business models and outside investment will also address the so-called “greying of the bar” in which small communities lose lawyers when this increasingly elderly crew retire.
I believe that 2012 will be the year that senior management and boards of directors will finally realize that legal fees are low-hanging fruit when it comes to reducing company expenses. They will force the implementation of alternative working arrangements that discard the billable hour and demand more value-for-money from law firms. As a result, in-house counsel will finally come out of their shells and realize that they can demand better from their legal services providers. The result will be greater use of RFPs for legal services, packaged at a fixed monthly fee regardless of the amount of work done.
Prediction # 5
This is perhaps the most obvious prediction for 2012 – another Canadian/UK law firm merger will occur. The 2010 Norton Rose/Ogilvy Renault merger has been exceptionally well-received by lawyers in those firms – so much so that adding McLeod Dixon to the mix was an easy decision. Canadian law firms are slowly coming to the conclusion that they can’t do it all in the global market-place and that being part of the right global platform adds value to their clients, excitement and enhanced purpose to their teams, not to mention money to their bank accounts. Any Canadian firm that blows off overtures from a U.K. mega-firm (assuming there is a cultural fit) will be making a mistake for which that firm will pay dearly in years to come.
Prediction # 6
One mid-sized law firm will formally announce the use of legal process outsourcers (LPOs) located in India or in the Philippines as a way to be more efficient and cost-effective in delivering legal services. In fact, a more aggressive firm will purchase an ownership interest in an LPO to enhance quality control.
Thomson Reuters purchased LPO giant Pangea3 in late 2010. This acquisition has made little impact on the Canadian legal market. However, I predict that in 2012 Pangea3 will begin to aggressively court business from Canadian in-house counsel and law firms.
In the pie-in-the-sky department, one province will institute a student loan-forgiveness program for law students who agree to practice in small communities or in not-for-profit clinics/organizations. For each year of service in an approved role, the student will have 15% of her student loan forgiven.
Mitchell E. Kowalski M.A. LL.M. ICD.D., Barrister and Solicitor, 627 Bloor Street West, Toronto, Ontario,
M6G 1K8, t: 647-427-4990, f: 877-689-0652, c: 416-294-6499. www.kowalski.ca.
Steve Matthews: Responsive Web Designs
I believe 2012 will be the year firms do something to respond to the question: “how mobile friendly is our law firm website?” Cross-browser testing must now include smart phones and tablets; and firms will respond by detecting media and screen size, and delivering a customized design for each interface. Fixed-width and minimum-width designs are finally dying! And the application of fluid grids will allow firms to maximize their website’s presentation for all mobile devices.
Jordan Furlong: The Security Blanket is Disappearing
Take steps to reduce your internal cost of doing business. Even if you already run a pretty streamlined operation, look for more ways to lower your bills, maybe through the use of technology like virtual systems or assistants, or processes like project management. New competition from outside the legal profession is going to apply continuous downward price pressure on the legal market; prepare now.
The first generation of intelligent legal systems is here — technology that can replicate a lawyer’s legal skills in contract assembly, basic regulatory and compliance analysis, or dispute resolution. This trickle will turn into a flood in the years to come. You can’t fight it, but you might be able to co-opt this technology and use it in your own practice. Understand that more legal tasks will no longer be profitable for lawyers to sell.
The legal profession’s longstanding security blanket — protection from “unauthorized” legal service providers — is being taken away. Reassess your views of professional regulators: if you’re still labouring under the misapprehension that they exist to serve your interests, think again. Their job is to regulate legal services in the public interest, and they will do exactly that.
If you’re selling your services according to how much time they take to deliver, you’re installing artificial ceilings on your income, because you can only bill so many hours a day. Replace the longstanding distinction between “billable” and “non-billable” time by realizing that *all* your professional time is “business time.” Change your adjective for time from “billable” to “productive,” and watch the nature of your work days change.
Identify your five “best” clients — that could mean “favourite,” “most profitable,” or “most important.” Tell them you’d like to spend one hour with them, at no charge, every six to eight weeks to ask about their business, their industry, or their professional and personal lives, and find out whether you can help them with anything in these areas. You will never have to worry about losing these clients again.
Buzz Bruggerman: Work from Anywhere
To me the key item is the ability to work from anywhere, and theoretically to get more done faster. Not sure that many lawyers have bought into this idea, but it’s a reality.
Buzz Bruggerman, co-developer, ActiveWords.
Thank you brothers and sisters for sharing the first part of your tips and predictions for our time. Part 2 will follow tomorrow!This entry was posted on Thursday, December 29th, 2011 at 5:50 pm and is filed under Adding Value, Business Development, Change Management, Cheap is Good but Free is Better!, Firm Governance, humour, I'm a Mac, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Make it Work!, personal focus and renewal, Tips. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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