Patrick A. Palace
Gamechangersarethose people and products that erase the rules and redraw them. You know who and what they
are: Bill Gates and Microsoft; Steve
Jobs; iPhones and iPads; Google and
Amazon. These same forces are also
shaping our profession right now.
In our legal market, the rules are
being erased and redrawn by those
who are rethinking the profession:
those who build apps, those who sell
legal forms, those who settle cases online, and others.
Sadly, the bus carrying the future
of legal services is leaving the station
and we are not driving, and even worse,
most of us aren’t even on board. As a
result, we are no longer as competitive.
The Changing Profession
Some lawyers blame the loss of business
on the economy and are waiting for the
good times to return. Others complain
we are under attack by unauthorized
practitioners and that we need to build
more protections, but most agree that
practicing law today is getting harder.
And there are specific reasons practice
is getting harder:
• New web-based legal services that
sell forms, settle cases, write con-
tracts, and offer a myriad of legal
services that are available 24/7 are
flooding the market and are eas-
ily accessible. These services are of-
fered for less than most lawyers can
charge for the same services.
• The outsourcing of U.S. legal services and jobs to other countries
continues to expand by the tens of
and beyond the means of most who
need legal services.
• Case resolution through the court
system takes too long.
• Law school admissions are declining, tuitions are too high, and graduates are not as practice-ready as they
need to be.
•;Law has become a commodity with
many of our services interchangeable and easily replaced with online
legal services provided by non-lawyers and lawyers in other countries.
For all these reasons and more, lawyers are losing business. We are no longer competitive. This needs to change.
Being the Change
In our profession, we must be the mov-
ing force leading change. We must be
the game changers, but it takes a new
mindset. It means we have to redefine
how we do business and how we prac-
tice law. It requires a new model and a
new vision. Game changing happens
when the playing field changes. We
can’t simply add a few new rules, add a
protection, and tweak our webpage. If
we are in, truly in, then we must be “all
in.” This means that we all must put on
a new pair of sunglasses
and see the same new
landscape with the same
focus through a new lens.
And, when we do, our
future will be within our
control. And when we
do, we can drive this bus by grasping
the wheel, putting it in drive, looking
forward to the road ahead, and vowing
to stop staring in the rearview mirror.
And we will need a map to know where
we are going:
1. We must retool solo and small-firm
practitioners to be mobile, virtual,
focused, systemized, corroborative,
and project-based. Small practitioners need new skills, new tools, and
new marketing strategies. They need
improved support and increased access to CLEs and local and state bar
services. General practitioners must
rethink their practice strategy and
reach out to embrace the tools they
need to become competitive in the
2. We must lead the way to tear down
barriers to accessing legal services
and abandon outdated protectionist ways. Building walls won’t help.
Building bridges will. Here are some
steps we can take today:
We must recognize that access to justice is no longer a noble professional
ideal — it’s an economic model that we
must embrace to avoid economic extinction and social irrelevance.
We must embrace the Limited Licensed Legal Technician rule (LLLT).
We will create the protections, rules,
training, guidance, and discipline
for LLLTs, so that together we can
make the law accessible for those
who have never been able to afford it
and we can access a market that we
never had before.