image [cc] Mike Licht

In Part 7 of the series we noted the backward looking nature of the legal profession and how that handicaps lawyers needing to embrace change. In this final segment of the series, a bit of hope is brought to the table in the form of bars.

The Bar’s Role
Saving the best for last – bar associations are in the best position to drive change in the legal profession. Via their CLE groups, publications departments and member services options, bar associations are in a position to upend the Paradigm of Precedence. First and foremost, bars can lead by example.
Some specific examples of what a bar might do:
Actively adopt new technologies. Turn websites in to e-commerce, interactive destinations. Utilize cloud-based technologies in business operations. Enable mobile access to all services. Embrace social media platforms.
Partner with vendors who can bring technology and business knowledge to members in affordable ways. Be the one who stays on top of change on members’ behalf. Take some chances and invest money in technology relationships.
Include forward-thinking components in CLE programs and publications. Many topics can benefit by including forward looking technologies and business ideas. Ask speakers and authors to include those in their topics. Maybe require them as appropriate (e.g. Annual Conventions).
Provide CLE directly on adapting to change. With the right topics and speakers, CLE programs directed at meeting these challenges will have a strong appeal for members.
Provide practice management services to give members more direct advice and services.
Push to revamp the Bar rules. Too many rules are built on the billable hour model with a guild mind-set. Think about the innovators among the membership and make sure bar rules are not overly inhibiting them. As an example, check out the Legal Services Act in the UK. It goes so far as to allow non-lawyer equity participation in firms.
In Closing
Every facet of the legal industry is under intense pressure to change: every institution and every participant. No one is protected from the compelling market and technological forces. Surviving in this industry, let alone prospering, means shedding old ways and actively embracing new thinking.
I coined a second phrase in my 1999 presentation by applying precedence thinking to operating a ski boat. The phrase: We’re driving the boat by watching the wake. Our perfect storm presents an opportunity for the profession to turn around, look out over the bow, and face the future head-on.
So I’ll add yet another phrase to my holster: Precedence is a legal philosophy, not a business model.
My final suggestion: Become a voice for the Paradigm of Change.
Thank you all for following this series. It was fun and interesting to write. It made me think a lot about how all of the forces are coming together in a new picture. Although I can’t predict the future, this exercise gave me a less-fuzzy view of what’s in store for the legal profession.