Wednesday, May 16, 2012

12 predictions about your career in Law

I'm in Philadelphia. This week, Drexel and Penn graduated another crop of law students. They were bright-eyed and confident in their future careers, believing that they were going to really enjoy that summer clerkship at Walmart.

I didn't get invited to speak. Here is the speech I would have given.

Congratulations, all of you. You're justifiably proud of yourselves. Some of you graduated Summa Cum Laude. Others graduated Magna Cum Laude or even Cum Laude. Most of you, like me, graduated Thank You Lawd. All of you stand on the brink of the best of times and the worst of times.. You are facing a different world, and I'm going to show you 12 ways your future career is going to be different from mine. If you apply the ideas today, you will still be practicing law in 10 years. If not, the Four Horsemen of the apocalypse will ride you down. Here they are, without explanation or fluff.

  1. You will be competing with a global workforce.
  2. Your target demographic has changed A LOT.
  3. Self-help Clients will shop for services, not lawyers.
  4. Clients will want the lowest price, which means firms will "unbundle” their professional offerings, and outsource as much as possible. Many already do. See The modern bankruptcy practice.
  5. Lawyers will have to learn how to commoditize some of their offerings. There clients will look for a package before they ask for a bespoke service.Lawyers will run to the Cloud for data sharing, collaboration, and the competition for attention there will be fierce.
  6. The most successful lawyers will have to be entrepreneurial, which means they’ll be marketing their “product” not themselves. There is material for a week's worth of blogs in this statement.
  7. Guidance from professional disciplinary bodies will become increasingly confused as the ways that lawyers solicit clients proliferate quickly.
  8. Lawyers will be increasingly required to promote themselves and market their own practices, whether they’re in a firm or not.
  9. The debacle at Dewey Leboeuf teaches us that the model for gigantic law firms is dead, and probably should never have existed in the first place. That is not to say that the model for a global law firm is dead. You just don't need to be Dewey Leboeuf to be one.
  10. Lawyers will stop selling their time and will sell their knowledge instead. The billable hour, like the gigantic law firm, is dead.
  11. The best lawyers will operate an enterprise that includes a sophisticated marketing plan promoting a unique product.
  12. The Lawyer who does something different will succeed. Don’t follow the lemmings over the cliff.
These predictions are not meant to depress. What I want you to do with this is go forth. Be Creative. Change the World. Do it Differently. You can. You have to.

Thanks, and good luck!

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