Inside: To Boldly Go Where No Lawyer Has Gone Before

No, this issue is not about time travel or space travel, but that might make it easier to figure out what we should do now! When the board asked me to be a guest editor for the Contra Costa Lawyer, I wondered exactly what the editorial board had up their sleeves. Once the topic was introduced, I knew I had to accept the invitation. The practice of law is changing at an amazing (and sometimes alarming) speed and lawyers also need to adapt to changing marketplaces, delivery methods, diversity, and clients. The traditional law firm model does not always fit the changes happening in the world, so the future of law also consists of finding our way forward.

As one of those non-traditional lawyers and law firm owners, I am thrilled that the future of law is a topic of discussion, even when it makes many lawyers uncomfortable. Whenever I hear a lawyer lament that they are competing with online forms companies and non-lawyers for clients, the question should not be how to compete with them but how to create products and services that meet the needs of the firm’s ideal clients. Innovation and differentiation are the future of law.

This edition comes at the future of law from several different angles and perspectives. The broad range of authors this month brings in thoughts from law students, non-attorneys, different practice areas, and different client approaches to help us figure out what is to come and how to create the right products and services for future legal clients.

From a law student perspective, you’ll read about why people are going to law school these days and what challenges these new lawyers are facing when entering the practice of law. Pay attention to these new graduates. Their innovative ideas are the future of the law. Alay Yajnik also wrote a great article about strategic challenges and trends that law firm owners are grappling with, including those online service providers and productivity.

Then, there are the challenges of virtual practice and innovation to try to overcome those challenges. Sara Raymond wrote a practical article on tools that she uses to help her clients virtually without having to have multiple office meetings. What about software that purports to eliminate the need for a lawyer? We have an article about bankruptcy software that clinics have used to assist pro se debtors, but there are some pitfalls and limitations that were not expected.

Finally, we have two articles on the changing marketplace. There are a lot of different forces at work these days and they are all putting pressure on that traditional, billable hour, law firm model. How will you adapt to these changes?

Of course, the six feature articles in this edition are not the only perspectives out there. Every day, I read about new technology, new apps, new ideas for helping clients with their legal problems. One of my concerns as we were pulling our articles together for this issue is that they would be out-of-date before the issue was published! I encourage you to think about ways you can make the legal world better and help more people who may not have had access to legal services under a more traditional model.

Thank you very much to the guest contributors who answered my overly-excited emails and agreed to write on this topic. And, thank you to the editorial board for all of their hard work that they put into every issue and for asking me to contribute to a topic that I am so very passionate about educating on and discussing.

Please enjoy this issue and I hope it sparks some innovative thoughts for the future of your law career.