The legal field is one of the most volatile industries in the world. Change comes quickly and often, as new technology, new processes, and new business models all compete for attention. But not all change is equal: some of it produces real, meaningful change to the industry, its consumers, and society at large. Some of it is what we might call “law new.”
In the most basic sense, the term law new refers to techniques and strategies that don’t exist in traditional legal practice. This includes using a variety of different tools to provide legal assistance to clients—including artificial intelligence, machine learning, and blockchain—as well as focusing on delivering legal services in new ways, including working with underserved communities or creating a more collaborative approach to law.
A number of companies, startups and law firm subsidiaries are now using the phrase “law new” to describe these innovations, and the concept of providing legal assistance in new ways has taken hold throughout the industry. However, many of these firms are still working out the details of exactly how they’ll implement this approach, and it’s unclear whether or how they will ultimately produce the sort of impact that makes “law new” truly distinctive and valuable.
The speed, complexity, and fluidity of contemporary business requires collaboration on a massive scale. Competitors routinely partner to meet a wide range of challenges, from developing pharmaceuticals like the Covid-19 vaccine (which GM and Ford both participated in) to building complex automotive platforms for autonomous driving and ridesharing (where Toyota recently partnered with Uber to develop new car features). The legal function should lead this process by integrating the firm into legal platform partnerships that are fit-for-purpose, focused on customer/end-user experience and outcomes, leverage existing infrastructure, pool expertise, drive cost takeout, and meet growing demand for solutions to highly bespoke legal matters.
Mastery of legal/business data is now a fundamental requirement for legal professionals and their cross-functional enterprise colleagues. This new agility enables the legal function to rapidly identify and mitigate risk, capture opportunities, eliminate lost opportunity costs from protracted disputes, and deliver significant value to the business. A law firm that can demonstrate such data agility will be more relevant than ever.
As it evolves, the legal industry will more closely resemble its corporate customers and society at large. It will be more diverse, cognitively, demographically, culturally, and experientially. It will also be more integrated—customer-centric, technology and data-proficient, empathetic, and collaborative. Its workforce will be a mix of law practitioners and allied legal professionals, including “legal techies.”