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Rise of legal services bringing upheaval and opportunity, Maurer professor says

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The advances in technology that rocked the industrial arts, bringing automation and displacing workers, are coming to the legal profession and giving a bigger role to nonlawyers, according to William Henderson, a nationally recognized authority on the legal profession and legal education.  

Henderson, professor of law and director of the Center on the Global Legal Profession at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, was the keynote speaker during the Evansville Bar Association’s quarterly luncheon Aug. 29. More than 100 attorneys attended the mid-day event held at the Tropicana – Evansville.

As a part of his presentation, Henderson showed two photos. One picture depicted a mental artisan using 1700-era technology of an anvil and hammer to craft a nail. The other showed a modern-day high school graduate in an advanced manufacturing plant, running computer-controlled machines to produce inexpensive, environmentally friendly drive trains.

“What’s happened to industrial arts is about to happen for all professional services including law,” Henderson said, referencing author Richard Susskind. “We can’t stop it and we don’t do ourselves any favors by resisting it or running it down.”

Instead, attorneys will have to learn how to adapt and still make a living.

Henderson drew upon statistics and studies to show how lawyers flourished over the past several decades as the complexity of business and government regulations increased. Now, the legal profession is being disrupted by the growing legal services sector.

Some of these services, like LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer, target individuals who need legal help. Other vendors are vying for corporate customers. For example, Axiom markets to general counsels by offering to do sophisticated legal work like small mergers and acquisition transactions.

Henderson recalled his trip to the 2013 Legal Tech New York where a colleague realized vendors’ products were capable of doing actual legal work. The companies have made innovations that can do substantive legal work rather than just providing software that supports attorneys in doing their jobs.

This technology is giving clients other options. Attorneys are reluctant to embrace new ways of operating, Henderson said, but clients are demanding alternatives because the old way of doing legal work costs too much.

To compete, knowledge of the law is necessary along with other expertise, Henderson said. The practice of law will have to become highly interdisciplinary, drawing on other sources of human capital from such areas as information technology, system engineering, finance, and product management.
 
“So we’re going to become more like a manufacturer as a profession than a service profession,” Henderson said. “The law is definitely important, but I emphasize collaboration and teamwork because I want them (students) to get used to listening to other people, tapping into diverse perspectives.”

During a discussion with the bar members about the history and evolution of alternative dispute resolution, Henderson reiterated his point of interdisciplinary teamwork.

“I think that lawyers are always at their best whenever we put our economic interests secondary to society and client and we kind of think how can we make this thing work and then we back our fear, we back our livelihood out of it,” he said. “But I think … there’s an opportunity here to collaborate to build better mouse traps to better serve the citizenry.”

Finally, asked about the new Indiana Tech Law School, Henderson said the changes technology is bringing to the legal profession, are also creating an opening in legal education. Law schools that involve these innovations in the curriculum could do well.  

“If they want to fund a law school and they want to do something different, there’s room to do it differently and better,” Henderson said. “I don’t want to be on record as being against it. I’m a public employer with a public law school and we compete for students so we don’t like this, it’s more competition, it makes my life a little more difficult. But in the bigger picture what’s good for society; I’m open-minded to that they can do it better.

“I think the big challenge for legal education is that it has to be done differently,” he continued. “…I think that the Harvards and the really elite schools – and I know that people don’t believe me – but I think they’re vulnerable because there’s a real opportunity to do legal education much better. And employers and students are going to go where they’re better served.”

    

 

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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