My experience in "Lawyering in the Star Trek Economy"
Updated: Oct 29, 2018
I recently read this great post on Law Practice Today titled "Lawyering in the Star Trek Economy" by Mike Whelan, Jr. (Found at https://www.lawpracticetoday.org/article/lawyering-star-trek-economy) that I found particularly timely. Not only does it refer to one of my favorite TNG episodes, but since La Luzerne Law has just launched (*wink*) I had been thinking about my favorite thing about working closely with firms across the state, country, hemisphere, and world and whether there is room to improve on what I like.
It is no secret to anyone that the traditional law firm model is facing disruption from every angle. If it is not a legalzoom-esq service, it is the simple fact that most firms have a partner base that is getting awfully close to retirement. I can say with certainty that change will come, but what will change look like?
From my perspective as a client, it is great to have a "one-stop" shop where you can throw any legal question and get a well-reasoned answer with as quick of a turnaround as you need (within reason). Almost any midsize to large firm will have the resources to efficiently answer your legal question, in memo format, with all the fees and costs associated with it.
As technology advances and prices decrease, it becomes likelier that a solo or small firm will be able to answer any question as well as a midsize or large firm, without the "bloat" that directly affects your legal spend. Although almost any lawyer can give a legal opinion, the even better part than getting an answer is building a relationship with an attorney that you can trust. I always found it particularly helpful to have outside counsel that I could call to get their gut reaction to see if I was on the right page because it saved me countless hours spinning my wheels. Something like that is invaluable and probably will not be replicated by an algorithm in my lifetime.
However, I found that building those relationships can cost a substantial amount of money and it will almost never happen if you hire an attorney for a one-off issue. First, the "one-off" attorney will find it difficult to appreciate the intricacies of your business that will allow a meaningful gut reaction to your question. Second, while most lawyers will be cordial - even friendly - if you call them with work every 8 to 12 months, they will not be as excited to take your call for an off-the-cuff reaction to a question if you do not have substantial work for them.
This is a major departure from the role of in-house counsel. Of course, in-house counsel should be able to research and prepare a memo, but they are more often called upon to provide "on-the-fly" advice - sometimes from a person or department that had been "quiet" for months. As in-house counsel, I took pride in the fact that I had built relationships with people throughout the Company and learned as much as I could about every aspect of the Company. That is where I can improve on what I like about working with an attorney; I can make sure my firm treats every client like we are their in-house counsel.
How does that shape the future of law practice? My prediction is that instead of robots or algorithms to provide legal services, lawyers will continue to provide legal services - at least in my lifetime. However, lawyers will have to use technology to make sure they can more easily organize and recall the information necessary to fully service their clients.
I established La Luzerne Law with this future in mind. I will learn everything I can about you and your business in order to provide holistic advice at a reasonable price and I will make sure anyone else in the firm is just as competent.