I’ve spent the last few weeks on the road visiting with various corporate legal departments. The pressure on corporate counsel to control costs is as intense as ever. That’s not new.
What I found interesting was the amount of legal work — like real trial work — that is moving in-house to help keep costs down. If this trend continues, I imagine that one of the four scenarios for the Legal Profession set out in last month’s Legal Transformation Study will come sooner than later.
The study was done by the consultants at Decision Strategies International and the Legal Research Center and sponsored by Altman Weil, Deloitte Financial Advisory Services, DuPont Legal, Eversheds, and others. The scenario I’m referring to they call “Expertopia”. The idea is even greater specialization by lawyers with ever increasing levels of expertise. The economics of law firms would have to change, one would think, since we’re already seeing the unbundling of legal services and pressure from corporate counsel to not pay to train associates. As more work is done in-house, one suspects an increasing percentage of high-end, outside legal work will be for very specific expertise.
How will lawyers in the future achieve the level of expertise in niche areas? The answer, I think, has to be an expansion of potential clients — served worldwide — on very discreet areas of need. Another of the four scenarios discussed in the report is about the growth of an “E-Marketplace” for legal services. The authors suggest this will be focused on services that are commoditized. But I think an “E-Marketplace” might also play in connecting sophisticated buyers of legal services to the exact right specialist in an Expertopian world.
Hats off to Bruce MacEwen, Creator & Host of Adam Smith, Esq., for posting excerpts from the study and the excellent analyst report on topic from Outsell Insights. And, of course, to the authors and sponsors of the report.