This issue of Law Practice Today focuses on “new law” within the practice. When first presented with the theme by our LPT Editor-in-Chief Andrea Malone, I was in a quandary as to what was meant by “new law.” She noted that this issue would cover emerging areas of law such as marijuana, artificial intelligence, crowdfunding, cyber insurance and fashion, and how they are changing the legal landscape. She also said that this cutting-edge issue for our ABA Law Practice Division webzine would address how practitioners would develop and market a practice in one of these new areas of law. While the ABA Law Practice Division works with all areas of substantive law in their respective practices, it is timely in this edition that we also highlight the new ways and means to practice law.
Over the past half century, the ABA Law Practice Division has led the way embracing new ideas in providing legal services in our core areas of finance, management, marketing and technology. How can we as practitioners be more efficient and effective in the delivery of legal services and educate our members and the profession accordingly? As we began this new year with our various resolutions to do things better, many in the profession are looking for new means to address old concerns in the practice of law.
As I have stated in other forums, including the current issue of the division’s magazine, Law Practice, attention to client service is paramount. Clients grow weary of business as usual in securing legal services. With an abundance of new ideas, many propelled by technology, lawyers are finding themselves in a buyer’s market. In-house counsel are using matter-management software to analyze billing trends to make data-driven business decisions. Clients want certainty as they purchase legal services, and are demanding legal project management, a method for attorneys to plan, execute, manage and control a legal engagement to provide an effective solution for the client at a predictable cost – in other words, bringing more value to legal services.
Developing a data-driven practice through knowledge management, connecting people to the information they need, is a key to survival in the law practice market of tomorrow. The implementation of knowledge management systems enable lawyers to thrive in today’s rapidly changing economy and contribute to the development of sustainable competitive advantages.
Technology also is transforming the practice of law through virtual or mobile practice, cloud computing and document automation. Today’s practice has attorneys throughout the world using the cloud and providing legal services through client portals, where tclients and lawyers can quickly and easily collaborate on documents and other tasks. In today’s legal services market, lawyers must continually strive to provide cost-effective and efficient solutions to our clients’ legal problems.
The new ways of practicing law also incorporate a number of models that are not so new, such as alternative billing with flat fees and value pricing, and limited scope representation where attorney and client agree to limit the scope of the legal engagement, leaving certain tasks to the client or other responsible parties. All are part of the client centric movement that is transforming today’s legal market.
Finally, new ways of practicing law are not just about clients and their desires for cost-effective and efficient delivery of legal services, but “new law” is also about the attorneys and how they practice. The new concept of mindfulness in the practice of law is gaining traction. Lawyers are faced with handling some of the most stressful issues in their clients’ lives. Multiply that by 100 or more for most attorneys, and no wonder that today’s lawyers are under a tremendous burden of stress. How do we handle, how do we manage that stress? Mindfulness in the practice of law has been the answer that many have found that offers a solution.
As witnessed over the past half century, the ABA Law Practice Division is continuing to bring these and so many other areas of “new law” to the members of the profession through CLE, webinars, publications, the Legal Technology Resource Center, Law Practice magazine and this webzine, Law Practice Today. For those that want to learn more there are a number of fivision committees and task forces that are available to any members that wish to join. As chair of the ABA Law Practice Division, I invite you to join one of these division entities. Engage with the division, together we can learn and forge a path forward towards a more client centric and fulfilling practice for all.
About the Author
Tom Bolt is the founder and managing attorney of BoltNagi PC in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, and is the chair of the ABA Law Practice Division.