Technological, Economic and Business Forces Transforming the Private Practice of Law
The private commercial practice of law is undergoing fundamental change. Modern technological, economic and business forces are placing extreme pressure on the traditional private attorney law firm model. These forces will transform, eliminate or replace virtually every aspect of legal services provided by attorneys. Traditional foundations of the large law firm model such as "billable" hours, summer associate programs, large staffs (e.g., paralegals and secretaries) and high associate-to-partner ratios are becoming (or have already become) relics of a bygone era. Today, the business need for clients to select a one-stop, full-service law firm for their important legal work has, in a variety of circumstances, disappeared. Sophisticated clients are utilizing a wide range of legal services firms and companies for their legal work. As a result, the diversity of legal business models and manner of providing legal services has greatly expanded. Often individual lawyers (or very small firms) can provide high-level legal services by assembling "virtual" teams in which each team member handles a different constituent part of the representation. "In-sourcing," "out-sourcing" and the transferring of large portions of work to non-lawyer legal support vendors are all becoming fixtures of the legal economy. This rapid increase in diversity on both the supply and demand side of the legal economy will greatly alter the skills and prerequisites required for the successful private practice of law. The course is composed of two parts. In part one, the technological, economic and business practices transforming the legal profession are identified and their impact on the traditional approaches to private practice law firms will be examined. In part two, the course focuses on how individual lawyers can adapt to or embrace the forces transforming law to improve their practice and succeed in the new environment. Part two of the course will additionally focus on how specific skills such as project management, social networking and information management will be crucial to a successful legal career. Part two of the course will also discuss how the changing legal environment creates new ethical and professional challenges for attorneys.