THE UNITED STATES HAS A GREAT LEGAL SYSTEM. BUT IT CAN SERVE CLIENTS BETTER, BUILD STRONGER FIRMS, AND CREATE MORE AND BETTER CAREERS IN LEGAL SERVICE.
First things first
I am delighted to launch Legal Services Today. I am grateful for the assistance of Kevin O’Keefe and the entire team at Lex Blog for their support in getting this new blog up and running.
As the name suggests, this blog will focus on how legal services are delivered. More particularly, it will focus on two main ideas: (1) how the law works and (2) how we can make it work better for everyone.
In this first post I want to talk about the outlook that motivates me to write this blog.
I’ve been a lawyer for 46 years. I spent the first 40 in big law, including chairing Orrick for nearly a quarter of a century. I’ve spent the next six years immersing myself in dimensions of legal service in which I had not previously been deeply involved, including legal technology, access to justice, and the regulation of legal services. The sum of these experiences have led me to a set of beliefs about the law, how it works, and how it can work better.
I believe law is more important than it has ever been. There is more law than ever before. There are more jurisdictions than ever before. And the explosion of data makes it exponentially more complicated to comply with the law.
Law is in everyone’s life; it is in every business’ business; and in just about how everything works.
We are blessed to have a legal system that is up to serving the needs of everyone. Our system is fundamentally well designed to operate fairly and transparently. There are more than one million well educated and dedicated lawyers in the United States trying to serve the needs of their clients. And countless other professionals working one way or another in legal service.
But we can do better. And we need to do better. Far too often legal service is more expensive than it needs to be, takes too long, and is not transparent and understandable to the clients. More fundamental, in the United States more than half of the population does not have access to legal service at all. Meanwhile, careers in law are not as appealing as they once were, causing fewer candidates even to apply to law school and dampening the interest of other professionals in legal service careers.
Law has not kept pace with advances in technology and process design in the way that other professions have, nor in the way that industry has. It hasn’t even kept pace with the way ordinary people lead and manage their lives.
Every observer has an opinion about why legal service is not more modern. It seems to me there are three basic reasons:
- First, the most prominent lawyers, who set the models for the profession, do not have adequate motivation to change; they are achieving satisfactory results for their clients and making excellent financial results for themselves.
- Second, our regulation of law practice unnecessarily impedes innovation by excessively limiting who can participate in legal service.
- Third, we have not adequately informed stakeholders about how modern process design and technology can create better outcomes for everyone.
There is a better way
I believe that there truly is a better way: In every facet of legal service we can do better. More sensible regulation; more effective and affordable legal education; law firms and other legal service entities that deliver better, faster, and cheaper legal service with sustainable financial results and rewarding careers for more people. And, most important of all, legal service for all who need it on terms they can afford.
So that’s how I see it.
In the weeks ahead I will try in this blog to share ideas and developments that illuminate and illustrate how we can move toward such a better way. I will also try to draw attention to people and organizations who are making progress, and setting examples for others to follow.
Kevin O’Keefe says a blog post is a conversation. I look forward to chatting with you.