Monday, May 14, 2012

Professor Henderson's ominous prediction: Legal service providers will replace many U.S. lawyers; several law schools will shrink and eventually close.

Over at the Legal Whiteboard, Professor Bill Henderson has looked at the data and concludes the number of traditional, domestic lawyer jobs stopped growing way back in 2004 and has been in decline since then.  On the other hand, legal service providers (cheaper alternatives to traditional law firms such as offshore contract attorneys) have been rapidly gaining market share and Professor Henderson predicts this trend will only increase.  The bottom line is ominous:

For lawyers and law professors, our cheese is being moved.  Over the last three years, I have given several dozen structural change talks.  Many lawyers tend to view it with skepticism or a desire to just run out the clock.  The law professors tend to treat it as just another academic workshop.  Regrettably, we have conditioned ourselves to believe that all ideas and data we discuss are just that -- academic.  In contrast, just this week, two general counsel of growing and important technology organizations told me -- largely in passing, not to make a point -- that Indian lawyers living in India are a regular part of their global work teams.

The longer we ignore this, the more foolish we will look.  Legal service vendors, again financed by the nonlawyers, are now in the process of taking over larger portions of the global supply chain; and thanks to technology and process, the work is destined to be lucrative.  Within a decade, a nonlawyer will be heralded in The American Lawyer for inventing a legal process.  And many U.S. law schools will shrink in size and eventually close.  Why? Because what we teach is increasingly disconnected from how law is being bought and managed by clients.  This is what structural change is eventually going to look like.

Prospective law students, current ones and law professors need to read the full post here.


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