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I always enjoy an interesting convergence of ideas. Recently three news items hit my radar that appeared unrelated, until I gave them each a second look and more thought. The first item was the release of the whitepaper from Reuters (of Thomson / Westlaw and Pangea3, the LPO). The paper is entitled, LPO 2.0: the Next Phase of Legal Process Outsourcing Industry. I have previously noted the risk that LPOs will take business from law firms. This was validated in the whitepaper, by this money-shot quote:

Since 2005, the breadth of the services that have been performed and offered offshore has increased dramatically as the industry has become more sophisticated, especially in the areas of litigation, corporate transactional work, and governance, risk management and compliance. Not only are services growing in number, but services that have long been offered by LPO providers are growing to encompass more, and are being packaged as end-to-end solutions.

My prior post on this threat to firms noted the ethics police are apparently not seeing this as a clear ethics or UPL issue, so the door is wide open for this type of competitor. And from the looks of the whitepaper, the LPOs are kicking it open even wider.

Item #2 – “In Washington State, ‘Legal Technicians’ Will Be Allowed to Help Civil Litigants” The Supreme Court there is making this change to enable better access to justice. Here’s the money-shot quote:

“But there are people who need only limited levels of assistance that can be provided by nonlawyers trained and overseen within the frameworks of the regulator system. … This assistance should be available and affordable. Our system of justice requires it. The court acknowledged concerns that the plan poses a threat to the practicing family law bar. But ‘protecting the monopoly status of attorneys in any practice area is not a legitimate objective,’”

And what do these two things have in common? Both are reactions to the failure of lawyers to meet market needs. LPOs sit at the top of the market. These new “Legal Technician” will sit at the bottom. 

Greg (a.k.a. #1) brought home the all of this with a comment he made about the article “Only 55 percent of law grads found full-time law jobs.” He wondered why so many lawyers can’t find jobs when there is so much need for them.

So at both the top and bottom of the legal market, non-lawyers are filling needs. Meanwhile lawyers can’t find jobs. What is wrong with this picture? Where is the invisible hand of Adam Smith when we need it?

My read on this: High demand existing alongside over-supply brings further evidence that lawyers lack a basic understanding of market forces. The days of lawyers getting work because they are good lawyers are over. Lawyers need to embrace a market driven view of the world and focus on meeting the needs of clients. It’s either that or get out of the way and let the market do its thing.