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. Especially I would like to see all the republican voting patriotic good ole boys to stop and understand that the wars they have been volunteering for all along (especially the past decade at least) have not been for God & Jesus etc no far from it unless you think George Washington's face on the US dollar is god (and we know many do). When I saw the movie about Chris Kyle, I thought wow how many Hoosiers are just like this guy, out there taking orders to do the nasty on the designated bad guys, sometimes bleeding and dying, sometimes just serving and coming home to defend a system that really just views them as reliable cannon fodder. Maybe if the Christians of the red states would stop volunteering for the imperial legions and begin collecting welfare instead of working their butts off, there would be a change in attitude from the haughty professorial overlords that tell us when democracy is allowed and when it isn't. To come home from guarding the borders of the sandbox just to hear if they want the government to protect this country's borders then they are racists and bigots. Well maybe the professorial overlords should gird their own loins for war and fight their own battles in the sandbox. We can see what kind of system this really is from lawsuits like this and we can understand who it really serves. NOT US.... I mean what are all you Hoosiers waving the flag for, the right of the president to start wars of aggression to benefit the Saudis, the right of gay marriage, the right for illegal immigrants to invade our country, and the right of the ACLU to sue over displays of Baby Jesus? The right of the 1 percenters to get richer, the right of zombie banks to use taxpayer money to stay out of bankruptcy? The right of Congress to start a pissing match that could end in WWIII in Ukraine? None of that crud benefits us. We should be like the Amish. You don't have to go far from this farcical lawsuit to find the wise ones, they're in the buggies in the streets not far away....

  2. Moreover, we all know that the well heeled ACLU has a litigation strategy of outspending their adversaries. And, with the help of the legal system well trained in secularism, on top of the genuinely and admittedly secular 1st amendment, they have the strategic high ground. Maybe Christians should begin like the Amish to withdraw their services from the state and the public and become themselves a "people who shall dwell alone" and foster their own kind and let the other individuals and money interests fight it out endlessly in court. I mean, if "the people" don't see how little the state serves their interests, putting Mammon first at nearly every turn, then maybe it is time they wake up and smell the coffee. Maybe all the displays of religiosity by American poohbahs on down the decades have been a mask of piety that concealed their own materialistic inclinations. I know a lot of patriotic Christians don't like that notion but I entertain it more and more all the time.

  3. If I were a judge (and I am not just a humble citizen) I would be inclined to make a finding that there was no real controversy and dismiss them. Do we allow a lawsuit every time someone's feelings are hurt now? It's preposterous. The 1st amendment has become a sword in the hands of those who actually want to suppress religious liberty according to their own backers' conception of how it will serve their own private interests. The state has a duty of impartiality to all citizens to spend its judicial resources wisely and flush these idiotic suits over Nativity Scenes down the toilet where they belong... however as Christians we should welcome them as they are the very sort of persecution that separates the sheep from the wolves.

  4. What about the single mothers trying to protect their children from mentally abusive grandparents who hide who they truly are behind mounds and years of medication and have mentally abused their own children to the point of one being in jail and the other was on drugs. What about trying to keep those children from being subjected to the same abuse they were as a child? I can understand in the instance about the parent losing their right and the grandparent having raised the child previously! But not all circumstances grant this being OKAY! some of us parents are trying to protect our children and yes it is our God given right to make those decisions for our children as adults!! This is not just black and white and I will fight every ounce of this to get denied

  5. Mr Smith the theory of Christian persecution in Indiana has been run by the Indiana Supreme Court and soundly rejected there is no such thing according to those who rule over us. it is a thought crime to think otherwise.