Young Lawyers, Technology and the Future
One of the themes of the Professional Compass highlights how technology will fundamentally reshape the practice of law. In a thoughtful article published in the December 1, 2015 edition of The Florida Bar News, Gordon Glover, President of Young Lawyers Division of The Florida Bar, lays out a younger lawyer's view of the future of law.
"Today, a young lawyer does not have to charge high hourly rates in order to succeed. A young lawyer can create a virtual office without stacks of legal books or rented office space, and utilize web-based practice management software for less than $40 per month. Low overhead means lower costs for legal representation. A young lawyer charging only $100 per hour and billing 1,000 hours a year (significantly less than a lawyer in a big firm) can make a decent living. More importantly, those lower costs can open a new market, putting that lawyer within reach of people who have felt they can’t afford legal advice."
Very much to Glover's credit, he points out that the lower cost options which may be created by the "...virtual office..." may well expand the availability of legal services to the 83% of Americans who cannot afford legal services in a market which may reach $45 billion nationally.
And, many young lawyers may not have much of a choice but to function in the virtual setting. As Glover points out, "The average debt for a law school graduate is $140,000. Additionally, 15 percent of new lawyers can’t find employment, and for those who do in Florida, the average starting salary is $45,000. Those numbers don’t add up to success."
As young, technologically able, lawyers continue to enter the market, one can expect to see more and more virtual law firms present themselves. They will use social media to market to their peers and others who spend ever growing amounts of time connecting to the world through these new media connectors. Reputational endorsements (ala LinkedIn) and rating services (ala Avvo) may come to replace the word of mouth referrals that have been the tradition of our profession. Lawyers of all ages and experience should take note. As we have said in many contexts, changes in technology will create market and cost efficiencies, new forms of competition and changes in the fundamentals of legal marketing. And, that future may be upon us much more quickly than we might expect with young lawyers leading the way. If you are not already thinking about how to use technology to a far greater degree, now may be a great time to get started...before you get passed by!