Legal Industry Needs New Leadership, Expert Says
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Summary: A Forbes contributor has argued that the legal industry could use younger and more innovative management.

Law is one of the few industries where experience is valued over youth, but one legal expert has stated that the profession should allow more fresh faces to take over. Today in Forbes, Georgetown distinguished lecturer Mark A. Cohen argued that the field is being disrupted and not by those already sitting pretty at the top.


Cohen said that the greatest example of change in the industry is in the retail legal market, and he said Legal Zoom is one of the best examples. Legal Zoom is a website that assists people with their common legal tasks such as writing a will, and it has millions of customers.

“LegalZoom’s blend of technology, process, agile services, customer accessibility and centricity has revolutionized the way millions have acquired access to legal services.The company offers different levels of lawyer involvement based upon the need for professional judgment and ‘customized’ service–as well as budget.  LegalZoom’s customer approval rating–around 90%– is in marked contrast to traditional partnership firms whose low client satisfaction ratings have resulted in the seismic shift in market share,” Cohen wrote in Forbes. 

The legal industry has always been dominated by older white men, Cohen said; but technology has given newbies more of an in. He noted that younger people have been given great opportunities in other industries, and he said that if legal delivery changes, then so will senior management.

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In his piece, Cohen mentioned the recent promotion of 29-year-old David Knopf as CFO of the mega food company, Heinz. It is almost unheard of for a company of that size to have an executive at that level so young, but Cohen said that business relies on innovation to succeed. Law firms, on the other hand, rely on their prestige, which is having less weight in the modern world.

“Business operates by taking calculated risk and embracing innovation, automation, and digitization; law firms have continued to sell high-priced labor and pedigree—even for the many tasks that do not warrant it. This has created misalignment between firms and clients and has led to a significant diminution of firm market share.  Law firms are playing checkers—clients chess,” Cohen said.

Businesses have changed the buy-sell dynamic, and although law firms have been slow to adapt, that does not mean that change isn’t happening, according to Cohen.

“Lawyers are not becoming obsolete, but how they are deployed, evaluated, and rewarded—is undergoing a sea change. New players with different skillsets—notably those with STEM, process and project management, business, financial, analytics, and social science backgrounds should—and will soon—have seats at law’s management table. The relevant expertise and experience warranting a senior management position in the legal industry is changing rapidly,” Cohen wrote.

The legal practice is shrinking, but the delivery of legal services is growing. Cohen wrote that legal tasks once done by attorneys are now being sourced out and that the legal field is now being dominated by the digital age.

“There’s no turning back from the digitization of legal delivery, and stakeholders had best be prepared for it and the new skills required,” Cohen said.

Do you agree with Cohen that fresh faces will and should dominate the legal industry? Let us know in the comments below.



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