At the Futures Conference, there are always so many interesting new ideas pinging around it is impossible to catch them all. So this year, we enlisted a few people to help us keep track. Today we wrap Futures Week — our series on predictions about the future of the business of law — with their favorite ideas. Next year, of course, you’ll want to be there yourself — to catch your own.
The College of Law Practice Management’s 2016 Futures Conference, “What Will Law Look Like in 2026?”, was co-hosted by the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.
Five Favorite Ideas from the 2016 Futures Conference
1. In-house lawyers need CLE, too. I heard from a couple of firms that offer on-demand online continuing legal education programs to their clients. In-house lawyers need CLE credits just like their outside counsel. Law firms can do double duty by providing important information to their clients that satisfies their CLE obligations while also demonstrating their expertise. Webinar software is very accessible, user-friendly and reasonably priced, so this type of offering is within reach for many.
— Greg Siskind, Siskind Susser, PC — Immigration Lawyers, @gsiskind
2. A different way of keeping score. As someone who attends an average of five to 10 conferences per year, I can say this is one of the best I’ve attended in a long time. Among the many great ideas and thoughts that came out of it was a comment by Wicker Park Group co-founder Nat Slavin, which in and of itself will make change easier in law firms. In his session, Nat mentioned that by 2026, “firm compensation plans may be skewed more towards client service scores.” Switching the incentives to align with client service scores may remove many of the current barriers to change inside firms.
— Patrick Fuller, Vice President, Business Development, Neota Logic, @NeotaLogic
3. These days, general counsel are not figureheads. Connie Brenton, Chief Legal Officer for NetApp, raised some interesting ideas about the needs of legal departments. Connie said, “I act like the managing partner of a law firm, only I am managing the corporate legal department for NetApp. It took a while to figure out all that I needed to know because many lawyers and law firms were reluctant to share management information. General Counsel these days are not figureheads but real practicing lawyers, and an increasing number of us are managing our legal departments like law firms. We know how to collect metrics. Eighty percent of the work is not bespoke. In our department, we’ve figured out that, to do this type of work, it costs us about $100 per hour. So we are not happy paying an outside firm two to four times that amount to do it.”
— Merry Neitlich, Partner, Extreme Marketing, @MerryCoachesEdge
4. Cross-pollination. One of the best ideas I heard from the COLPM Futures Conference was Patrick Tisdale’s idea surrounding data. While gains from advanced data usage may show up more readily in larger firms initially, the more recent knowledge management push occurring in smaller firms is intriguing. Tisdale prophesied a future “cross-pollination of systems and decisions,” where more powerful decisions would be made based on data and where the “knowing and doing gap” would shrink or close. Avoiding “decision fatigue” that plagues many legal entities and even exposing unexpected, yet useful, knowledge are two benefits from better data utilization in the future.
— Natalie Robinson Kelly, Director, Law Practice Management Program, State Bar of Georgia, @NatalieRKelly
5. When is a law school like a hospital? In our panel, which was focused on the future of legal jobs, Bill Henderson discussed legal education, and I challenged the group to think about whether law schools should be completely revamped to address more of the issue of training and equipping lawyers. We learned basic skills during the first year of law school — how to research the law, how to write and advocate like a lawyer, and beyond that, 90 percent of the substantive education provided in law school was of little or no help in practicing law. Law schools and the legal profession are really two separate but related industries. Law schools exist to get students and educate them on legal matters — not to train students to be lawyers. Last week at the Section Officers Conference of the American Bar Association, ABA President-Elect Hillary Bass questioned whether law schools should be set up more like medical schools, where students learn the basics and then go on to internships in specific areas.
— Mark A. Robertson, Managing Partner, Robertson & Williams, @mark_robertson
Futures Week Predictions
For Futures Week, we asked 2016 Futures Conference speakers to summarize their talks:
- The Future of Client Service by Nathaniel Slavin, The Wicker Park Group
- Will Alternative Business Structures (ABS) Fly? by Reid Trautz, American Immigration Lawyers Association
- Where Will the Legal Jobs be in 2026? by Jordan Furlong, Law21
- Will Our Data be Any Safer in 2026? by Sharon Nelson, Sensei Enterprises, Inc.
Plan Ahead for the 2017 Futures Conference
Next year, the Futures Conference: Running with the Machines — AI and Expert Systems in Law Practice will take place October 26-27 at Georgia State University School of Law in Atlanta.