"The future is not going to wait on us. We have to go with it."
Who said that? Steve Jobs? Peter Diamandis? Elon Musk? Richard Susskind?
None of the above.
Those were the words of the American Bar Association Immediate Past President in San Francisco on the day she relinquished the mantel for her year of service. On passing the gavel to her successor, Paulette Brown was responding to the two years of work by the ABA Commission of the Future of Legal Services. The Futures Commission was established in 2014 by then ABA President William Hubbard to explore how the future of law should be expected to develop.
Its Report on the Future of Legal Services in the United States is a 100 page tour d' force review and set of recommendations for the legal profession. It is a no holds barred assessment of the challenges, failures and opportunities faced by lawyers to narrow the access to justice gap in the US.
How did the new ABA president respond?
In her own words, Linda Klein congratulated the Futures Commission as a "silo-busting" force and observed:
"It’s neither easy nor comfortable to embrace change. But we’ve got to do it and we’ve got to do it now. It’s clear that lawyers have so much to offer to those who need help, but millions can’t access our services. This has to change, and we must be the drivers of innovations so others don’t do it for us. "
The report was approved by the ABA Board of Governors.
A close reading of the Futures Commission report is warranted by anyone in the business of law. No segment of the legal services industry escapes scrutiny. Courts, bar associations, law schools, BigLaw, solo's, legal tech and clients alike are encouraged to abandon their silo mentality and embrace innovation, change and collaboration.
The call for change is not simply for the benefit of the impoverished, but for an under served community of individuals, businesses and organizations unable to access legal services because of cost, inconvenience and barriers to entry,
As much as we would like to hide from this disruptive reality, technology, artificial intelligence, new service models and alternative providers are lowering the barrier to entry and the costs of legal services. These are not forces to be resisted, but embraced . . . for the benefit of clients.
Project management, process improvement and Lean operational methodologies apply as much to the delivery of legal services as they do to manufacturing and software development. The annoyingly familiar phrase "better, faster and cheaper" has as much to do with law as it does with consumer products. After all, the legal services industry exists to provide service to its consumers.
The Report painfully observes that the legal profession has lost the public trust by its elite, discriminatory and exclusive approach to its business and services. Only by placing client interests first will our profession regain that trust. Only by working with other disciplines and experts can the fleet be turned in a new direction. The silos must fall.
The Futures Commission makes 12 all-encompassing recommendations for our profession's future. Each recommendation undercuts the status quo and requires rigorous innovation, creativity and courage.
For many this report is a startling call to action. For others it is "too little, too late."
For all, there is no turning back.
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