Bridge to a Successful Legal Profession.
In the previous articles, we could see that there are some necessary improvements, or even possible comprehensive reforms needed for the current legal education system. “NewLaw” was briefly introduced in the first article. It is the legal profession’s response to tackle inaccessibility, which is secured by the legal hierarchy reproduced by our legal education system. This innovative concept would be illustrated further below. In part 2 of this series, “augmented skills” were suggested to be an essential skill set that legal professionals shall possess as a competent 21st century lawyer. Some of the relevant concepts and initiatives would be discussed below as well. This article tries to give an unconventional perspective onto the legal profession and suggest that there may be options for law graduates outside the “orthodox” path of being solicitors or barristers (or in-house counsels too).
For the furtherance of its legal hierarchy, being admitted as lawyers has been framed to be the obvious and almost the only possible path for law graduates for decades. However, as identified in the previous articles, the ever-evolving world seeks something that traditional law firms, the active actors in the hierarchy full of lawyers being taught and trained in our legal education system, may not be able to deliver. These customers are searching for options that cater to their demands, which are not necessarily traditional and complex legal services, but bespoke and flexible legal solutions. They want to pay for the value added to them, not the number of hours each layers of lawyers used to review the juniors’ drafts. They want certainty on the bills. They want clarity on the documents. They even consider engaging technology and process management tools to streamline their legal operation.
|Related content: In Part 1, Chris explores how moving away from legal hierarchy can make law more accessible. Give it a read!|
When the market demands, the profession supplies. Customers gratefully appreciate and resonate with the alternative legal services providers, including NewLaw companies. NewLaw could be understood as an initiative for the legal profession to engage in technology, process innovation, customer-focused services, alternative pricing strategies, flexibility and agility. It includes implementation of numerous revolutionary methodologies, such as Legal Operations (to develop and improve the in-house legal department through refined business models and processes), LegalTech (to assist the provision of legal services with software and technology) and Legal Design (to provide approachable solutions for their customers by combining design thinking, visual thinking, user experience design and legal thinking).
As suggested in the second article of this series, the lack of augmented skills demonstrate the failure of traditional legal education providers in connecting the real-world industry. The dynamic market requires something that traditional law firms could not supply, because the legal education system simply does not reproduce graduates who acquire such skills. This is where alternative legal services providers or NewLaw companies could complement. They help streamlining processes, utilising legal technology and management tools instead of purely giving hourly-billed legal advices. Furthermore, law companies could promote flexible working hours for their contracted consultants. While the world shows increasing acceptability to new business models such as sharing economy and moving away from the conventional 9 to 5 jobs, this new path may be quite appealing to our Gen Z graduates.
As suggested in the previous articles, with COVID hitting hard, businesses will look for unorthodox ways to get the most value out from the least costs. With some changes in our legal education, which is already lagging the industry’s response to the growing demand, we could better equip our law graduates, and with possibilities of alternative options. Although many thinks that it is becoming very difficult to serve in the legal profession, I am intrigued to explore further in this challenging time.
Dec 17, 2020
By: Chris Fong
In the last article, the current legal education system was criticised as the same tool that reproduces our legal hierarchy, as Professor Kennedy has already observed almost 4 decades ago...