The event that allowed most lawyers to push the snooze button on organized discussions of the future of the practice of law was the disintegration of Arthur Andersen in the wake of the Enron collapse. Until that point, multi-disciplinary practice ("MDP") was a red hot issue and lawyers were focused like a laser beam on the future.
I recently re-read issues of the ABA's Law Practice Management Magazine from 1999 and 2000 (only available to ABA LPM members on their Web site). There are some amazing ideas in those issues and a sense of energy and urgency about the future that is quite striking. It's also striking how many of those ideas are still good ideas, yet they have rarely been implemented.
As I put together this list of resources, I sensed a widening gap between the vital, happening world of blogs and the static, weary and almost aging world of Google, search engines and Web sites. If you want to see what's really going on in the discussion of the future of the practice, you'll want to dip into the realm of the legal bloggers. You can find some starting points in an earlier Strongest Links column on legal technology blogs.
However, there are still some solid sources on the
future of the practice of law in the world of Web
sites. Here are a few that I like:
ABA Legal Technology Resource Center – Futures Articles (http://www.lawtechnology.org/research/futures/articles.html) - Although this page can give you the uneasy feeling that most discussion of the future ended in 2002, it is a solid collection of links to some of the most influential and thought-provoking articles on the subject.
Charlie Robinson's Resources (http://www.charlierobinsonfuturist.com/) – Charlie Robinson hasn't stopped thinking about the future. His Web site has great articles and other information. It's worth noting how often Charlie speaks on this topic. Thanks Charlie for keeping the torch lit.
TechnoLawyer (http://www.technolawyer.com) – Although TechnoLawyer.com has a focus on technology, you'll often find discussions of what the future of the practice will look like at a practical level. The key point is that you find actual discussions. I highly recommend this resource.
ABA eLawyering Task Force (http://www.elawyering.org/home.shtml) – Some very interesting discussion and work on the role of the Internet in the practice and delivery of legal services happens in this group. The site is in the process of some updating, so watch for improvements and some needed updates, but there's a solid set of resources.
ABA Committee on Research About the Future of the Legal Profession Final Report: Overview (http://www.abanet.org/lawfutures/report2002/) – Although, again, this report may give you the feeling that work on the future stopped in 2002, don't overlook this report. This report will give you a solid base from which to launch your thinking on a variety of key issues.
NetLawTools (http://www.netlawtools.com) – If you look into the subject of the future of the practice, you'll notice some people who appear with regularity. For example, I find Marc Lauritsen's articles to be superb, with even articles more than ten years old having great vitality and interest. One of my favorite gurus or seers is Jerry Lawson, because of his insights into the role of the Internet. NetLawTools is Jerry's Web sites and it's a way to enter into the body of work he has created, including several blogs.
The Future for Lawyers (CBA) (http://www.cba.org/CBA/EPIIGram/June2004/default.asp) – This site is new (2004), looks like it will grow and invites discussion. It also reflects a non-US perspective, which is useful. The feature of the site is a piece called “Seven "Wonders" of the World...The Future for Lawyers,” described as "a short, provocative piece with a sometimes dark view of the future."
Robert Half Legal - Future Law Office (http://www.futurelawoffice.com/) – This site includes a solid recent research report that focuses on some of the practical aspects of the future of the practice. It's well worth your while to read this report.
SmartPros.com (http://www.smartpros.com) – SmartPros is a Web site and an email newsletter for the accounting profession. However, articles often apply to law firms and other professional services firms. I find lots of great insights, practical suggestions and clear-eyed looks into the future of professional services firms in SmartPros.
CPAVision Project (http://www.cpavision.org/) – Compare what the accountants are doing to what the lawyers are doing and you will be reminded why the accounting firms got the full attention of lawyers in the era of the MDP debate. Lawyers are well-advised to spend some time reviewing this site and the materials there – both for the ideas for the future you can find and for the insights into the likely approaches of potential competitors.
Seize the Future Comments (http://www.unbundledlaw.org/thinking/seize.htm) – In 1999, the ABA's Seize the Future conference brought leading thinkers inside and outside the profession together in a novel conference with the purpose of charting the future of the legal profession. Read these comments and notes for the conference sessions and reflect on how much still makes sense today.
Dennis Kennedy's Future Law Resources Page (http://www.denniskennedy.com/resources/technology-law-central/futurelaw.aspx) – I've kept a collection of resources on the future of the practice on my Web sites for several years. Maintaining it can be a little sad because I keep seeing links to good articles and resources go dead.
This month's collection of links suggests that the
discussion of the future of the practice of law needs
an injection of energy. There's a lot of good work
that's been done and is available. It's worth your
while to read the articles in this issue of Law
Practice Today, explore the articles in these
links, check out the lawyer blogs and see what you
can do to get the discussion rolling again. As the
saying goes, the future is now.