Google’s self-driven car recently collided with a city bus. It was the fender bender heard round the world. Why? Automation’s mishap was a momentary reprise — and great relief for millions — from its replacement of human drivers. After all, nearly 20 percent of Americans have jobs that involve driving. A recent Pew study found that 65 percent of adults believe that within the next 50 years robots and computers will do much of the work now done by humans. Count lawyers among the concerned group. And we’re not talking about half a century from now.
Technology and process are the means by which clever human beings are reshaping delivery of goods and services. As applied to legal delivery, new models are springing up that do not change what lawyers do so much as enable them to be more efficient and better leverage their expertise. This is good for value and bad for a model built on maximizing billable hours.
Lawyers are increasingly rendering legal expertise from technologically and process-driven business models — not law firms — that are “faster, cheaper and better.” This is well underway in the retail segment of the market where companies like LegalZoom, Rocket Lawyer and others are bringing millions of new customers — individuals and small businesses — into the marketplace. And the corporate segment is beginning to embrace new models, too. Investment in legal technology and the rapid growth of service provider market share confirms that.
In the midst of the astonishing pace of technological change and its profound impact upon nearly all facets of human existence, the future keeps happening in the once static legal vertical. Here are some recent examples.