Today’s Guest Blogger, Kristina Lambright, brings us a review and explanation of Jordan Furlong’s new book, Evolutionary Road. Kristina serves as the Manager of Strategic Pricing for Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. Prior to that she was the Pricing Analyst for Vinson & Elkins. Kristina has a JD from South Texas College of Law and an MLIS from the University of North Texas. Welcome to 3 Geeks Kristina!

Evolution, by definition, is a process of continuous change from a lower, simpler, or worse to a higher, more complex or better state: growth.  Evolutionary Road is both a timeline and in-depth perspective of the legal marketplace which draws out an insightful explanation of its changing nature.

Legal industry forecaster Jordan Furlong has an exceptionally high accuracy rate in forecasting the direction and fate of the legal market. He is a prolific orator and author who has elicited respect and support from professionals in all areas of the legal industry. His new e-book Evolutionary Road provides both retrospective and prospective views into the legal marketplace as well as a practical strategic discussion guide.

Futurists and non-futurists who follow Jordan’s Law21 blog will recognize much of the content; however, Jordanites who wish to both drive change within their environments and effectively navigate the Evolutionary Road, will appreciate the compilation of historical observations, anticipated events and overall prognosis of the legal industry.

In his book, Furlong expounds the Stages of the legal market:

  • Stage 1: Closed market (pre-2008) – Lawyers run the show with no real competition or pressure to innovate; Legal knowledge & tools largely inaccessible without lawyer involvement
  • Stage 2: Breached Market (2008-2016) – Lawyers face increased competition & recognition of vulnerabilities; Declining demand for lawyers; Beginning of the end of the “BigLaw” business model
  • Stage 3: Fully Open Market (2016-2024) – Legal jobs disappear; Golden age of Legal technology; Legal knowledge & tools universally available
  • Stage 4: Expanding Market (2020-Future) – Emergence of a more dynamic legal market; Increase in range and depth of accessible legal work; Legal job growth; Collaboration between lawyers and non-lawyers; Transformation of legal education
  • Stage 5: Multidimensional Market (TBD) – Lateral thinking; Creative brainstorming; Lawyers reinvent themselves

Appreciation of each stage is essential to facilitate the change necessary for successful navigation of the legal market’s Evolutionary Road.

As opined many times and in multiple venues, the legal market has traditionally been slow to adopt new or advanced technologies, operational efficiencies, or structural changes as compared to other markets and business organizations.  Past, present and future market change and external forces have and will necessitate change (or evolution) and those that adapt will survive.  Those that choose to innovate will thrive.

Also addressed are all the areas of the legal landscape that have and will continue to impact participants striving to prosper in an evolving market.  Specific topics discussed include Law School practices, Market Competition (to include Legal Process Outsourcers and Alternative Business Structures), Pricing, Law Firms and Industry Regulation.

Other areas discussed include the battle for market share, availability of legal knowledge and tools and the reversal of growth in the legal profession.  Furlong coins new terms such as “the lost generation”, “non-school” legal education providers, mobile/virtual solo firms, streamline megafirms and super boutiques – all of which are born by a more complex market.

To this day, MANY naysayers truly believe, and boldly state, that the market will never change or change very little.  These naysayers are the MANY that experienced and enjoyed the “easy” money of the Closed Market (pre-2008) and have only been marginally affected by market pressures.  Those unwilling to embrace (or even entertain) the concept of change and evolution within the context of their own organizations, will undoubtedly become the next case study used to further support the argument that inability or unwillingness to adapt leads, ultimately, to extinction.

Some readers will classify Furlong’s latter stages as unfounded, grandiose and/or over-the-top.  And while Furlong prefers to be labeled a “legal market analyst”, he might have to concede that many of his forecasts in Evolutionary Road provide justification for branding him a “legal futurist.”

Evolutionary Road’s message is not all doom and gloom.  The future, according to Furlong, brings hope and optimism for legal professionals.  Many positives are revealed including one stunning prediction found in Stage 5 – LAWYERS are driving change – that profound prediction ALONE is enticing enough to add Evolutionary Road to your must read list.