“We are really in an interesting position to help drive where the future is going,” says Chad Burton, a former litigator who is dedicated to experimenting with the latest in legal and productivity technologies. Burton presented at the Seventh Annual Young Lawyers Division Leadership Conference and the Young Lawyers Leadership Summit.
April 5, 2017 – Young lawyers, primed to experiment with new ways of delivering legal services, are driving change.
“We haven’t been ingrained, over decades, with a certain way of doing things,” said Chad Burton, a former litigator who is dedicated to experimenting with the latest in legal and productivity technologies. Burton is head of CuroLegal LLC, a law practice consulting firm in Beavercreek, Ohio. “We are really in an interesting position to help drive where the future is going.”
Burton spoke to 150 young lawyers at the Seventh Annual Young Lawyers Division Leadership Conference and the Young Lawyers Leadership Summit, which took place Friday, March 24, in Green Bay. The conference is sponsored by the State Bar of Wisconsin Young Lawyers Division.
Finding the 80 Percent
For those wondering – and even worrying – about where the legal profession is headed, Burton has this advice: take a look at the American Bar Association’s “Report on the Future of Legal Services” published in 2016 by the Commission on the Future of Legal Services.
There is one key statistic to pay attention to: Currently in the U.S., 80 percent of Americans who need legal services do not have access to them, according to the report.
Where the opportunity lies is in the solo and small-firm market – because technology has advanced to let us operate much more efficiently and control costs.
“That is a giant number,” Burton said. The number includes some who cannot afford legal services, but not all. It also includes “people who are fearful of the process, so they don’t engage,” Burton said, as well as “those who don’t know they have a need for legal help.” That means opportunity for the legal profession.
“Outstanding Mentor and Young Lawyer: ‘Be the Mentor You Seek’,” InsideTrack, April 5, 2017
“24 Young Lawyers Prepared as Future Leaders at Leadership Development Summit,” InsideTrack, April 5, 2017
“What Solo and Small Firms Should Know About Artificial Intelligence,” InsideTrack, Feb. 1, 2017
“The ‘Uberization’ of Legal Services: Consistent with Ethics Rules?” Wisconsin Lawyer, February 2017
“There are issues that require wholesale change for us to serve this entire market,” Burton said.
One change can be in creating a leaner, more efficient law firm. “Where the opportunity lies is in the solo and small-firm market – because technology has advanced to let us operate much more efficiently and control costs. The more you control your costs, the more you can take fixed fee or contingent services,” Burton said.
10 Million Unique Hits
Another, “edgy” area is to examine the unregulated legal service providers, such as Legal Zoom, Rocket Lawyer, and Avvo. While Burton acknowledges that these providers are controversial within the legal profession, they are not going away. Keep in mind: Avvo has more than 10 million unique hits to its website per month. “Remember that fact,” Burton said. “There’s a reason why those hits are happening to the Avvo site.”
It means that members of the public are not going directly to lawyers first to find answers to their problems. “We need to figure out how they are going to fit into the future of how we deliver legal services,” he said.
We need to figure out how they are going to fit into the future of how we deliver legal services.
“As lawyers, we need to embrace what they are doing. It doesn’t mean that you need to participate. But a lot of lawyers are able to grow their firms because of referrals from these sites,” Burton said.
Regulation of these sites – including the possibility of ownership of firms by nonlawyers – is a change that is coming. “It’s going to affect every lawyer before we’re done,” Burton said.
Will I Be Replaced by a Robot?
No, lawyers will not be replaced by robots, yet. “We have an opportunity to use artificial intelligence to help us run more efficient practices,” Burton said.
Instead, artificial intelligence programs can do the “grunt work,” such as contract document review and analysis or email responses – saving hours of work per week.
“It’s not going to take away jobs – it’s going to make us more efficient,” Burton said.
That’s a Fine Idea! What’s It Take to Be a Wisconsin Legal Innovator?
Are you a Wisconsin Legal Innovator? Know one? Last year’s Wisconsin Legal Innovators, from left, William Caraher, Rebecca Scheller, Sam Owens, Mary Turke, and Colleen Ball, put new ideas to work to solve problems facing their clients and communities. Nominate a 2017 Wisconsin Legal Innovator by June 30.
Last year’s Lifetime Legal Innovator, Colleen Ball, is described as always in motion, looking for the next good idea. She thinks like a startup. And she has the energy, vision, and wisdom to recognize someone else’s great idea.
Ball, a state Public Defender appellate attorney, channels her passion for access to justice into helping pro se parties navigate the appeals process and finding ways to make appellate practice more efficient for lawyers.
She encourages lawyers to “pause from time to time and think about how we work, how we deliver legal services.”
“No matter our area of practice, there are ways to deliver better services more efficiently,” says Ball. “We can discover those ways by spending time outside of our own work environments, observing how others (not just lawyers) deliver services, and thinking about how to adapt those strategies to our own practices.”
Know a Legal Innovator? Nominate by June 30
Through the “That’s a Fine Idea: Legal Innovation Wisconsin” initiative, the State Bar of Wisconsin is asking the legal community to help it tell the story of legal innovation.
Tell us about the people and ideas that are changing Wisconsin’s legal landscape. Nominate a Wisconsin Legal Innovator who breaks with tradition to do it better. The Wisconsin Lawyer will feature the people behind the best examples of legal innovation in the November 2017 issue.
Innovation can come in many forms. It could mean:
- New ways to use technology to improve client service or serve a new market
- Best practices for promoting workplace diversity
- New marketing/business development strategies
- New ways of providing pro bono or reduced-cost services
- Changes in internal operations that result in greater efficiency
Learn more or find the nomination form at ThatsaFineIdea.com. The deadline for nominations is June 30, 2017.