How law firms can thrive in this disruptive era

The legal profession’s ambivalence towards new technology is excusable. For all the speed, efficiency and convenience that digital tools provide, they also threaten some well-established income streams. But are there also reasons for optimism? We asked legal commentator Joshua Rozenberg for his view.

law firms thrive in a disruptive eralaw firms thrive in a disruptive era

Joshua Rozenberg QC, Legal Commentator and Journalist

“The law is still quite a traditional profession,” Joshua Rozenberg emphasised, “They like to do things the way they’ve always done them. We still have one person practices. We still have lawyers who give guidance to clients on all aspects of their family and business life. There’s still a place for that and people wealthy enough to pay for it. On the other hand, people are no longer prepared to pay for simply sending letters and filling in forms which they could easily do themselves.”

Technology has already transformed sectors, such as manufacturing, but the impact on the legal profession is just beginning. On the one hand, it could free lawyers from much of the routine and high-volume work that is well suited to technology. On the other hand, this work was often highly profitable and firms may have to rethink their pricing and operational models.

“Obviously there is concern about the future, but the risks for some are opportunities for others. Firms will need to see which way their part of the legal profession is heading and develop ways of providing services innovatively that clients will want and be willing to pay for.”

He drew on the example of online courts, which are about to be introduced for both criminal and civil cases. “Some might see an online court as a means of doing away with lawyers because clients can actually appear in court by themselves. But I think anybody faced with a computer asking them whether they want to accept a penalty for a crime, or whether they want to bring a civil case, is going to need some help.”

So, whether buying houses or defending minor criminal offences, people will still require legal expertise at key stages in the process. “The astute lawyer will be able to act flexibly, move in quickly and provide the instant, bespoke advice the client needs and then move on and let the client deal with the rest of the case.”