The traditional assumption has been that an individual graduating from law school will almost always enter private practice, climb the law firm hierarchy and reach the coveted status of equity partner. Why else would you go through the trouble of attending all those early morning constitutional classes, and the effort of being called to the bar? By many accounts, a sizeable number of lawyers are currently unhappy with private practice. Surveys conducted by the American Bar Association indicated that 24% of lawyers who passed the Bar in 2000 were no longer practicing law in 2012. Surveys conducted by the International Bar Association indicated that 33% of lawyers under 40 were considering pursuing a different area of the law, while 20% were considering leaving the legal field altogether. Fortunately, many lawyers can increasingly leverage their legal training to pursue alternative legal employment, including quasi-legal positions, alternative service providers including legal tech, ADR/mediation, policy work and education to name a few areas.
The first evolution in the shift away from private practice can be credited to the proliferation of ‘in-house’ counsel positions in the early 1990’s, created largely by banks and insurance companies to try and manage legal costs. Companies have continuously scaled up their in-house legal departments to manage many of the tasks that would otherwise be outsourced to private firms, leading to large in-house legal teams now being the norm and not the exception. Departing the world of climbing the law-firm ladder, and the immutable law of billable hours, is a change many lawyers are happy to make.
The second evolution came with the growth of ‘quasi-legal’ positions in the mid 2000’s, most notably the creation of specialist positions in the e-Discovery space. With law firms looking to control litigations costs and employ processes to manage the potential thousands of documents that would eventually be turned over in the discovery process. Legally trained specialists were needed in this rapidly evolving e-Discovery space. This specialization allowed lawyers to focus on one key part of the litigation journey, in turn developing novel processes to increase efficiency and reduce client costs. Since this adoption, almost every large international law firm now has a dedicated e-Discovery department.
The legal profession is evolving, and the latest leap forward is the use of AI. Legal technology is advancing at an exponential rate and law firms will need to adapt to stay competitive. This growth in technology will also lead to a simultaneous growth in roles for people who have legal knowledge and the ability to embrace the growth of new technology and processes. ClearyX is at the heart of this evolution! For example, Due Diligence Analysts specialize in all aspects of transactional diligence, while Transaction Managers manage multiple projects simultaneously, both utilizing innovative processes and the use of technology.
It is clear that the profession will continue to grow and change, in turn will creating new alternative legal positions and new ways to leverage the power of a law degree. The future of law has never looked so bright!