What will the practice of law look like twenty years
from now? Last year I asked that question to eight young
lawyers and law students and the answers surprised (and
occasionally infuriated) many of our readers. Law
Practice Today (January 2004). We had predictions
that books would be gone, law firms would be gone, and
even lawyers (some) would be gone. Others on the roundtable
predicted more of the same. The billable hour will still
be king and law firms won’t change much (after
all, lawyers are terrible businesspeople).
So what do the old farts think? Not admitting either
that they are (a) old or (b) anything like the word
I just used, a good crew of thinkers on law practice
issues agreed to respond to the same questions we used
earlier. The last twenty years have been pretty exciting,
with word processing, accounting systems, PCs, networks,
cell phones, email, and, ultimately, the Internet. How
about the next twenty? Will law firms exist in their
present form? How about that billable hour? What technology
will shake things half as much as PCs and the Internet?
Once again, I asked our panel how things might change
and what will likely stay the same? Some of their answers
might surprise you. Read on to see.
Wells Anderson works with law offices
across the North America via Web meetings. He implements
Time Matters software for specific practice areas and
trains lawyers and staff. Anderson is president of Active
Practice LLC (www.activepractice.com),
an ABA TECHSHOW Board Member, a veteran Time Matters
Authorized Independent Consultant, and the 2000 TechnoLawyer
Legal Technology Consultant of the Year. email@example.com
Robert Denny founded Robert Denney
Associates in 1974, a firm that has specialized in providing
management, marketing, and strategic planning expertise
to over 700 firms, offices and legal organizations throughout
the United States as well as in Canada and the Caribbean.
Bob has written five books on management and marketing,
two of which were published by the American Bar Association.
He writes the TrendsReport column for Law Practice
Management and his articles have appeared in The
National Law Journal and Legal Management.
He has been interviewed by many publications including
the ABA Journal and The New York Times
and has conducted several national TV seminars on law
firm management and marketing. His firm publishes the
annual report on "What¹s Hot and What¹s
Not in the Legal Profession." firstname.lastname@example.org
Ron Friedman (email@example.com)
is the president of Prism Legal Consulting, which helps
law firms with the strategic use of technology and legal
market software companies with marketing and strategy.
He is a lawyer by training and has held senior management
positions at two large law firms and two legal software
companies. His articles and blog are at http://www.prismlegal.com.
Stewart Levine is a consultant, trainer,
mediator and facilitator. He is the author of the award
winning “Getting to Resolution: Turning Conflict
Into Collaboration” and the recently released
“Book of Agreement” that has been called
“more practical than Getting to Yes.” www.ResolutionWorks.org
Wendy Werner is the owner and principal
of Werner Associates, a law firm consulting and career
coaching organization. She can be reached at www.wendywerner.com/associates.
Mystery Participant: This fellow has
practiced and consulted with lawyers on law practice
issues for many years. He participated but would prefer
that his name not be used.
Joe Kashiis an attorney and litigator
living in Soldotna, Alaska, who is active in the Law
Practice Management Section and a technology editor
for Law Practice Today. He has written regularly
on legal technology for the Law Practice Management
Section, Law Office Computing magazine and other publications
since 1990. He received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from
MIT in 1973 and his J.D. from Georgetown University
in 1976, and is admitted to practice in Alaska, Pennsylvania,
the Ninth Circuit, and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Larry Bodine is the North American
Regional Director for the PM Forum, a global association
of 3,000 marketers in the law, accounting and consulting
professions. Larry can be reached at 630.942.0977 and
1. What will be most different about the practice of
law twenty years from now? Why?
Kashi: Don’t expect any of
us to know. Most predictions about the state of any
field ten to twenty years down the road, even when done
by professional "futurologists" such as those
at the RAND Corporation, have proven wildly wrong in
retrospect. In our legal practice context, that's usually
because there is a major unpredicted change in the statutory
or common law in response to something like the Arthur
Anderson/Enron affair or because some unforeseen technology
substantially perturbs our overall "system".
Almost by definition, the biggest changes will be revolutionary
rather than evolutionary, and thus not really foreseeable.
At best, our predications can only extrapolate existing
We can predict something, however. There will be a
substantial premium placed upon lawyers and staff possessing
the technical background, skills and willingness to
rapidly adjust to changing circumstances and to quickly
assimilate new technologies into their office procedures.
Law firms that cannot quickly evolve will sink into
irrelevance. We need only remember that twenty years
ago, many law firms still typed documents on typewriters,
databases where in their infancy, there was little or
no practical computer assisted legal research, mobile
phones were installed only in the cars of Hollywood
moguls, and an 8 MHz 80286 PC and cumbersome LaserJet
1 printer were the epitome of law office technology.
Now, we use highly integrated legal-specific practice
management and accounting programs, pervasive wireless
networks, and 3 GHz systems without a second thought.
Compared to today's law firms, the organization and
structure of most law practices twenty years hence will
probably undergo major evolutionary changes that, over
a ten to twenty year period, will look revolutionary
Denny: There will be two extremes
of practice. At one end will be the simple, routine
matters for which most people will not retain a lawyer
either because they will obtain "do-it-yourself"
counsel through the Internet or they will use paralegals
and non-lawyer consultants. At the other end will be
the complex matters for which they will need an lawyer¹s
counsel and representation. This will include trial
work and new areas of law that do not even exist right
The principal reasons for this will be: 1) Cost; 2)
The feeling that routine, commodity-type matters do
not require a lawyer and 3) The requirements for practicing
certain types of law will have been loosened which will
permit certain types of professionals to practice in
these areas without having to pass the bar exams as
they exist today.
Shuey: Almost all commodity practice
(e.g., uncontested divorces, low damages litigation,
basic estate planning, and simple business structure
creation) will be provided either by non-lawyer commercial
entities and/or by the court system itself.
Levine: Much of what lawyers currently
do by way of compliance will be done with more and more
sophisticated AI software. Information is readily available
and people or software can fill out forms.
Bodine: The Federal Trade Commission
will assert its authority over all the professions including
law. It will find that the Rules of Professional responsibility
are a restraint on trade and will use its power under
to Commerce Clause to nullify all state ethics rules.
The impetus for this change will be a major scandal,
like the Enron scandal which brought down the accounting
profession. There will be a public outcry that the legal
industry is unable to police itself and the profession
will lose the privilege of setting its own ethics rules.
All limitations on practicing in different states will
be struck down as a restrain of trade; there will be
a national bar exam that admits attorneys to practice
in any jurisdiction. This will be a boon to law firm
marketing—as lawyers will be able to use all commercial
means available to promote themselves in any jurisdiction.
Friedman: Following the trend in
health care, the legal market will adopt “evidence
based law.” General counsels will finally put
bite behind the bark for lower costs and better service.
They or their agents will systematically analyze how
lawyers work (for example, by analyzing the data generated
by e-billing) and develop best practices. Key among
these best practices will be formal project management,
which will be a requirement for any sizable matter.
The imperative to reduce costs and improve outcomes
will drive this.
Anderson: If we were transported
twenty years into the future, we would find the pace
of law practice stunning. Why? Despite the ups and downs
of geo-politics and economies, technological development
continues to accelerate.
2. Will the billable hour still be king in twenty
years? If not, what will replace it?
Werner: My sense is that people who
are in private practice will no longer be billing the
majority of their work by the hour. I don't believe
that market forces will stand for it, nor do I believe
that attorneys entering the profession will be willing
to devote the same amount of time to work as their more
senior counterparts. Junior attorneys want to have a
life now, not in the distant future or at retirement.
There may have to be tradeoffs for these younger attorneys
in terms of remuneration, but I think more will be willing
to make that trade off for more discretionary time,
flexible schedules, and alternative practice options.
Many attorneys forget or are not aware that billing
by the hour was not the origin of how attorneys earned
fees, and has come to prominence in the last 40 years.
I believe that attorneys will make money the way that
many other professionals do, which is to bill by the
project and for the value that their work brings to
the project. Attorneys will become more adept at writing
proposals, and they will learn how to write clauses
that will help deal with extenuating circumstances.
Attorneys will be paid as the knowledge workers that
they are, and for their intellectual capital rather
than by six minute increments. Even though there is
an enormous reluctance to include litigation in this
area, the growth of mediation and other means of mitigating
the high cost of litigation will come forward and provide
attorneys with alternate ways to bill for this work.
Kashi: I do not believe that the
billable hour will be the dominant form of legal billing.
Even in our small town, we are seeing more knowledgeable
consumers requesting us to explore alternate compensation
models. I believe that growing consumer sophistication
and consciousness, courtesy of the ubiquitous Internet,
will play a major role in this evolution.
Bodine: No. Law firms will have a
and offer services as for example, a set price for a
motion to dismiss or a fixed transaction price to acquire
a business. All services will be priced on a fixed-fee
basis, with the option to charge an extra hourly fee
only if a service takes more time than specified in
the rate card. This will be the result of a union of
corporate counsel that is formed to promulgate the Uniform
Legal Services Price Code (ULSPC). Law firms that do
not conform to the ULSPC will have to justify the difference
Levine: We will see a return to value
billing as clients are balking at hourly fees. Value
billing is the only way lawyers have a chance to prevent
themselves from becoming a commodity. Lawyers must be
compensated for the value they add.
Anderson: Lawyers working in complex
areas of law will charge hourly rates that we will find
staggering, but fixed fees for particular services will
be much more widespread. Lawyers and non-lawyers leveraging
information technology will sell legal services at advertised
Friedman: Yes, billable hours will
prevail, but vitiated by disciplined project management
combined with budgets for each stage of the matter.
Denny: Fixed fees will have become
the norm for routine, commodity-type matters. For most
others, the billable hour will still be the primary
fee basis. Alternate fee arrangements will still exist
but they will have to be negotiated based on what the
total fee is, or might be, on an hourly basis.
Shuey: For all non-litigation work
(and for some litigation work, as well), work will be
provided on a set or flat fee arrangement. While this
has been predicted for years, even before Richard Reed’s
Beyond the Billable Hour, the rapidly changing
marketplace, consumer demands, probable non-lawyer involvement
in oversight of the profession, legislative involvement
in capping fees will force the profession to respond
with certainty in the cost of representation for the
client, will force lawyers to offer many, if not most,
legal services at a known, and perhaps even published,
For services which cannot be accurately assessed as
to the time required for resolution, e.g., complex litigation,
hybrid fee arrangements with some recognition of hours
invested, results obtained and unique client needs will
be the norm.
3. What will law firms look like in twenty years?
Mega firms, virtual organizations, or what?
Anderson: Mega multi-national firms
will be thriving, but so will smaller firms composed
of lawyers scattered across the globe. Very large, always-on
monitors and video cams will tie far-flung offices together
by constantly streaming video and sound. We will use
personal communicators to get each other's attention
and converse, sometimes seeing each other in the wall-size
displays, sometimes not.
Levine: Both mega firms,because of
the need for economies of scale to do large scale work,
and a great increase in virtual organizations as globalization
Mystery Participant: Multidisciplinary
practice—business and consumers will depend more
on one-stop, full-service professional service firms
(accounting, consulting, legal advice).
Bodine: There will be a major consolidation
of law firms, with the mega-firms buying up practices
in all the financial centers. Most law firms in the
AmLaw 100 list will have offices in each of the largest
major business markets in the US (including New York,
NY, Los Angeles, CA, Chicago, IL, Houston, TX, Philadelphia,
PA, San Diego, CA, Detroit, MI, Dallas, TX, Phoenix,
AZ, Baltimore, MD, San Francisco, CA, Jacksonville,
FL, Columbus, OH, Washington, DC, and Boston, MA).
Smaller law firms will survive, either as regional
general practice firms for consumers, specialty boutiques
or plaintiff personal injury firms.
Shuey: If my feeling that commodity
practice will largely be removed is accurate, then one
of the new roles for lawyers so displaced will be as
diagnostician as an initial contact source for people
seeking legal services. That lawyer or firm would perform
no actual legal work, but would rather send clients
on to appropriate providers (perhaps including non-lawyer
commercial or mediation alternatives).
Ad hoc legal services providers will be created by
building the various skill sets required for particular
clients with various lawyers/firms into an “ad
hoc” firm. While this will raise issues of confidentiality
etc., clients will be better served by alternatives
that provide just the skills required and no additional
skills. That ad hoc firm may be totally or partially
virtual, which would allow the easiest assembly of lawyers
and skills and could offset ethical concerns.
The traditional and largest current segment firm (4
– 10 lawyers) will survive only if they can differentiate
themselves by building unique personal services representation
for clients. Much routine legal services will be provided
less expensively by alternative service providers, and
more complex matters may be taken by the ad hoc or large
firms. The remaining services will be legal representations
which are founded upon a “comfort level”
for the clients by perceived personal relationships.
This size/type firm will be more successful in geographic
setting where such services are more convenient or required
(e.g., smaller communities or suburban or exurban settings)
by the clients.
Some large law firms will exist (though less than
today), since the need for transborder, multi-national
legal services will continue to expand. As some large
firms have discovered in the past several decades, keeping
a multi-office and especially, a multi-national office
firm together is very difficult. The solution for such
a global, mega-firm may be a less structured affiliation
or association arrangements to serve particular clients
by substantial firms in multiple countries.
Friedman: Best practices and project
management will enable well-managed law firms to recognize
efficiencies, from investing in automation to hiring
and effectively deploying professional project managers.
Among large firms, only those with more than 1000 lawyers
will have the scale to deliver the systematized services
that clients will demand. Boutiques offering highly
refined and niche services will also survive.
Werner: Law firms will continue to
look like the many varieties they are today. Because
the top 200 firms receive the greatest amount of press,
many people forget that the largest percentage of attorneys
in private practice are working in firms of fewer than
twenty attorneys. Smaller firm attorneys who want to
compete with large firms will continue to leverage technology
for the many ways in which it can level the playing
The relationship between attorney and individual client
will continue to be critical. The physical office will
matter less than it does now, as everyone in the work
force understands that business can be conducted in
any location that allows for technology to convey information
in a timely way. Face time in the office will become
less important, which will have an interesting impact
on office politics, relationship development and management
Denny: Law firms will follow the pattern
of the accounting firms. There will be fewer mega firms
and a greater number of mid-size firms, solo practitioners
specializing in one area of law and virtual organizations,
many of which will not have lawyers because they will
confine their practices to areas that will not require
Kashi: There may be a practical limit
to the size of huge law firms and other similar professional
service organizations, derived in part from the potential
for malpractice and liability along the lines of Enron/Arthur
Anderson and Oxley/Sarbanes. As law firms go larger,
it becomes increasingly difficult to control the possible
rogue remote office, indeed to know fully what is being
done, but the potential for rogue offices to bring down
the entire organization has already been amply demonstrated.
Centralized document repositories running highly specific
expert system-based command and control technology will
probably be available to reduce such risks, however.
From the technological side, I believe that law firms
will evolve in the direction of more loosely affiliated
networks of lawyers who are used to working with each
other on an ad hoc, per project basis. This will be
driven by huge increases in affordable bandwidth, particularly
for video conferencing. (Many credible estimates suggest
that we are using only a few percent of the fiber optic
bandwidth already available, due to continued high pricing
that's probably not sustainable in the long run.)
I suppose that one may call this a virtual law firm,
with a core cadre of owner/partners and technical staff,
but with the ability to expand as needed by temporary
contract hires. Construction contractors have successfully
worked in this manner, in conjunction with skilled crafts
building trade unions, for decades. A virtual law firm
of this sort would probably have these general characteristics:
1.) a stable core group of attorneys;
2.) established collaborative relationships
with other, specialized law firms that possess expertise
that’s occasionally needed;
3.) glued together with appropriate
high bandwidth computer and telecommunications technology;
4.) expands and reduces personnel
5.) substantial technical expertise
A virtual law firm will probably only work efficiently
with central document repositories, good command and
control software, and high bandwidth remote access and
4. Will computers replace most of what lawyers do
in twenty years? If so, how and what will be left for
Shuey: No, computers will not replace
MOST of what lawyers do today, but they will replace
some of what is done today. Legal judgment will be very
difficult to automate, but scrivener services (the forms
generation) will be even more common than today with
sophisticated document assembly and expert systems allowing
the computer to “choose” appropriate provisions
in the creation of legal documents required. Similarly,
the load on the judicial system will force the automation
many low level disputes (removing much of the volume
from county court-level disputes) with the submission
of crafted forms with facts and positions, to be compared
and analyzed by computers – resulting in an automated
decision. Naturally, the absence of personal contact
removes the ability to judge the credibility of witnesses
and parties, but costs, delays and current frustrations
will cause consumers to accept such alternatives when
the dispute is not cost-justifiable within the current
Computers will play a much larger, but complimentary
role, for legal services providers by eliminating the
need for frequent office visits and indeed, even for
“local” presence of the lawyer or legal
services provider. Naturally, again, that raises issues
of multi-jurisdictional practice, but I assume that
such restrictions will have been removed in the next
Denny: For routine matters, yes.
For most trial work and all other matters, particularly
in new areas of law, no.
Levine: Lawyers will take on much
more of the trusted advisor role. Most forms and compliance
work will be done by AI which professional liability
carriers may even insist on.
Mystery Participant: Computers won't
replace most of what lawyers do, but artificial intelligence
and work product generated by automated rules will allow
law firms to provide better and less expensive service
to consumers and for non-complex business transactions.
Kashi: Probably not for most sorts
of litigation, but very possibly for routine personal
and business document production.
Anderson: Computers will chip away
at the ministerial and boring aspects of current lawyer
work. We will spend more time using higher level thinking
skills, collecting and assimilating information, then
giving advice at a pace we would find mind-boggling
Friedman: Computer will replace a
portion of routine work that large law firms do today.
The tools already exist, for example, expert systems
or document assembly. The challenge is not in the technology,
but in the economics. Only as both clients and firms
develop discipline about best practices and budgeting
will the economics of automating become positive.
Werner: What lawyers do will not
be replaced by computers, but technology will continue
to assist lawyers, and perhaps create better ways for
the more mundane parts of lawyering to be accomplished.
Forms, document review, filing, and the management of
processes will be better assisted by computing. Complex
analysis, relationship building and management, conflict
resolution, and creative thinking will still be handled
Bodine: Most business firms will use
decision-making software that helps litigation clients
decide if it is worthwhile going to court after all.
The Pinsents' and the Wragge law firms in London is
already using such systems, called 'Reaching Solutions',
that In some cases, the client will decide that the
risk is not worthwhile, saving the client money. Similarly,
budgeting software will accurately project the legal
cost of transactions, such as acquiring a business,
licensing trademarks, or financial transactions. Specialist
lawyers will actually carry out the litigation or transaction
work. All filing with courts and government agencies
will be done electronically. Documents will be exchanged
in online portals or extranets. Meetings will be held
entirely by video conference.
5. Will the trend toward internationalization of
law firms increase over the next twenty years? Will
it engulf even the small firms?
Denny: While the need for counsel
and representation in various parts of the world will
continue to increase, much of this will be provided
by smaller and mid-size firms located in the various
countries and jurisdictions. The mega law firms will
learn two lessons, just as most of the mega accounting
firms learned: 1) They cannot provide sufficient expertise
in every matter in every location or jurisdiction and
2) At some point most giant international firms cannot
Anderson: Yes, and we will see more
and more expatriots who remain connected to networks
of friends, colleagues, and clients across the oceans.
No, small firms will morph and thrive. Automated language
translation will fuel globalization, but those who speak
Chinese well will have a decided edge.
Bodine: With the globalization of
the economy, law firms will develop global connections.
Research may be done in India, transcript summaries
may be done in the Philippines and document preparation
will be done in Mexico. Law firms will become virtual
operations, with many attorneys working remotely, connected
to a central office by fax, email, the Web and phone.
When lawyers visit the central office, they will need
to reserve an office and secretary for a specified time
period. This will put lawyers closer to clients and
save law firms the huge expense of office leases. In
many ways this will level the playing field between
mega-firms and small law firms.
Levine: The trend will increase because
of globalization, but small firms will still exist to
service individuals and small business .
Shuey: The trend will continue, but
with recognition of the difficulties that such international
law firms pose (e.g., local law, cultural and language
differences). The need for such international, global
or multi-national legal services will have to expand.
Few commercial or business lawyers, no matter what the
size of the law firm, will be able to practice without
recognition of this globalization trend. Mergers, foreign
ownership of businesses, separation of business functions
into different countries (e.g., the “services”
portion in the United States, the actual assembly or
manufacturing in China) will force all sizes of business
law firms to confront such global issues. As indicated
before, the solution may be ad hoc creation of legal
services teams of lawyers.
Mystery Participant: Internationalization
(and associated mergers) will continue, but is more
a threat to the continued existence of the largest firms
(separately) than it is for the smallest firms, on which
many clients will continue to rely.
Friedman: Law firms will follow clients
in this regard. Assuming business continues to globalize,
so too will the firms that service them.
Werner: The growth of cross border
business will continue. The growth of alliances between
countries, trade partnerships, immigration issues, and
the complexity of international disputes will require
greater internationalization of law firms. The changes
regarding licensing of foreign lawyers in the United
States seems to point, in part, to the growing need
for American law firms to have international expertise
on hand. Firms of all sizes who want to be more involved
with clients who have business across borders will need
to develop greater expertise or partner with those who
have it. Small firms who handle only domestic issues
will continue to exist without this expertise.
Kashi: I anticipate that we will see
a strong trend toward the integration of law with several
other disciplines necessary to provide a complete solution
to increasingly complex and increasingly technical client
problems. Thus, more than internationalization of law
practice, we may see a trend toward multi-disciplinary
practice groups. These make particular sense in matters
such as construction law ( integrating engineers and
lawyers), drug and product liability cases ( for example,
integrating biologists, physicians and lawyers), etc.
Specialty law firms with particular expertise, rather
than general litigation and business law experience,
should have an advantage.
In answering this question, it is important to differentiate
between big-firm practice and the rather more common
solo and small firm practice. I suspect that there is
no question that big firm practice will become highly
international. However, w e also need to remember that
most law firms and most lawyers are not involved in
major national and international dealings. About 70%
of the practice of law deals with mundane matters such
as small to medium individual plaintiff personal injury
cases, small business advice, DUI, child custody cases,
and other person-centered family law and minor criminal
matters. In that context, most individuals will not
be comfortable dealing with a mega-firm that doesn't
even know in which time zone the client is located and
in which there is no face to face contact in which to
build the necessary trusting relationship.
I do not believe that solo and small firm law practice
will become internationalized except at the periphery.
That does not mean, however, that solo practitioners
can become complacent - far from it. They need to be
just as technically proficient and efficient as their
big firm cousins if they are to avoid squandering the
advantages of their personal presence.
6. What technology change (existing or coming) will
most affect law practices? Why?
Bodine: Existing technology will free
lawyers to work like entrepreneurs they will be able
to practice anywhere they have a phone, Internet connection
and nearby airport. Changes in the ethics rules will
allow them to advise clients and market their practices
in any state. Clients will be able to search for lawyers
using free online databases, which will show the lawyers™
track record (now available in Thomson Legal Record),
location (now available via AOL and Yahoo), industry
familiarity, list of other clients and rate card.
Keane: The NASD requires some “rogue”
Broker Dealers to record phone conversation with customers.
Courts have made audio recording of customer call a
requirement in some compliance orders. Right now, the
only search method is to find minimalist log data. The
breakthrough will be in retrieval of the full audio
conversation without transcription or a tool with transcription
to hone in on the substance of conversation with similar
sounding words. The software comes from the “spook”
community, homeland security of DoD. It is just now
staring to be “demilitarized” in the broadcast
industry. EED will not lag far behind.
The other hot trend to watch is “Business Intelligence”
software that many companies use to analyze data warehouse
from disparate database for trends like sales report
compared to inventory. The companies are looking for
forecasts and the distant horizons. Law firms and agencies
in Antitrust and Business litigation may want to look
at the wake. They can now examine not just frozen reports
of forecasts but start analyzing and modeling the data
stored in the warehouse with BI software. This term
is used in law firms for gather competitive intelligence.
In the business community is really stands for the online
analytical processing (OLAP) of massive internal data.
Companies like MicroStrategy, Cognos, IBM Business Objects
and even Microsoft have major niche markets. The EED
wing of discovery of data that might lead to relevant
evidence should also seize on these powerful tools.
Anderson: Have you seen Tom Cruise
in the movie, Minority Report, glancing at multiple
information feeds in a large, holographic display? Well,
the screens in our offices will not look just like that,
but the nature of our activity will. The big technological
change will be the widespread adoption of bandwidth,
storage and displays that are huge in comparison to
what we use today. The lawyers with the best filters
will win. Creating complex sets of information filters,
though assisted by computers, will be a high art.
Shuey: It seems likely that no one
single technology change will dramatically impact the
law practice in twenty years. More likely, it will be
the convergence of multiple technology trends:
- the ubiquitous availability of broadband access
to the Internet and other intercommunication,
- the access to almost all printed source material
via the ‘Net and with search engines and databases
which allow location of key and relevant information,
- the requirement for immediate access to a lawyer/firm
by clients (requiring the technology to implement
the ability for such contact in a small and portable
- the requirement that technology support the need
to communicate in multiple languages by providing
simultaneous translation services; and
- the need to provide the requested legal services
at increasing quicker rates (and lower costs).
The technology components therefore would appear to
be practical, for example PDA/Computer/Cell phone integrated
devices with long battery life which are always available
to the lawyer, supported by the software required (e.g.,
language translation services), open-source type collaboration
software which allow more effective and faster communications
with the client and for the subsequent delivery of the
requested legal services. To the greatest extent possible,
the actual production of legal documents (no, we will
not stop killing trees) will be at the client, court,
business or consumer end of the transaction.
Levine: Online filing, availability
of legal information, existence of expert systems .
Friedman: The adoption of web services
and the semantic web will create the ability for firms
to deliver “law embedded in software.” This
software will offer preventive law, detection of potential
problems, and automation of routine legal tasks. Large
firms will sell this on a subscription basis as part
of institutional relationships; the profit, however,
will still be in high-end, highly leveraged traditional
Mystery Participant: Self-help legal/business/document
drafting advice will proliferate with both the growth
of MDP and our ever-expanding universe of electronic
access to libraries of information, along with easy
and instant accessibility.
Kashi: For commoditized document production,
better document assembly programs based upon expert
system software. For lawyers and law firms generally,
mobile data communications of all sorts, particularly
high band width video, highly minaturized computers,
and much more efficient legal research software usable
from anywhere. Imaging and software to store, sort and
search image files will also be very significant. IBM
has already been working on these areas for years and
there are some strong software approaches now emerging.
Denny: There will be reduced requirements
for hard copy, particularly in trials. For the most
part, this will not be the result of changes in technology
as it will be changes in the traditional language for
most legal documents. They will have to become much
shorter and written more clearly.
With regard to trials, there will be a trend towards
"virtual court rooms". Lawyers, witnesses,
visitors and perhaps even jury members will participate
by video rather than having to be physically present
in the court room.
John C. Tredennick, Jr.
is a partner at Holland & Hart and CEO of CaseShare
Systems, an Internet company building paperless systems
for the legal and business communities. He is also the
Editor-in-Chief of Law Practice Today.