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. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues