In a recent newsletter, I gave thanks to what means most to me personally – my relationships. Having given thanks on a personal level, I now turn to what I am thankful for professionally. I am ever so grateful that the legal profession is in a state of flux and, what many of us think, is a period of dramatic transition. Liking “change” may sound odd coming from one whose profession is based on the cardinal rule of “precedent.” Still, I like good ole flux, especially when it’s followed by progress.
Dating back to the early 17th century, the word, “flux,” meant a sense of “continuous succession of changes.” Works for me. I have witnessed on numerous occasions non-stop, sequential, flips and flops that have brought about positive and progressive steps for humanity. Often, while in the moment, we don’t recognize turmoil as the benefit it is because the moment is painful. However, here is where hindsight is acceptable and we can nod, “Yes, that was tumultuous and painful, but worth it.”
So I am optimistically thankful of the continuous succession of changes occurring within our profession, most of which, like other professions, have been brought on by technology. It started with computers, then e-mail, next the Internet, and now this “cloud” thing.
- Computers made writing and editing a faster process, whereby time saved could have been money saved by clients. Hmmm…
- E-mail, especially within firms, made communication between colleagues collaborating on cases easier and faster. Still, occasionally something would get lost in the translation, especially since the business world frowned upon emoticons. Plus, sometimes, instead of getting lost, something would be set free, to everyone, e.g., when a poor associate accidentally hit “reply all” and client confidentiality was no more. 😮
- Moving on, we entered the age of the Internet, where “surfing” became more than something LA lawyers did when they finally took a vacation. It was also the age where an occasional law clerk wished they were in the ocean when, instead of performing online research, they were surfing without permission and blasted by a pornado.
- Today, a few daring legal eagles are embracing “the cloud,” online storage and project management systems that allow for not just storage but client and team collaboration.
Technology dramatically streamlined many of the processes lawyers depend on, decreasing the need for all that file cabinet space – and exorbitant client fees to pay for it, allowing for the sharing of legal information online, and helping potential clients better and more completely understand what we do.
Some think that technology has brought us too far. Clients are scrutinizing bills and, heaven forbid, asking us to explain to them, in plain English, the fundamentals of their cases or matters. Whereas before clients would just listen, get the bill, shrug their shoulders, pay the bill, and be thankful. Yes, Mr. Mason, those were the good ole days…Not.
I like these days better. I like clients who care about their finances – being fiscally prudent is the world we live in and I like clients who live in reality. I relish clients wanting to understand their options and the legal parameters of their matters because, ultimately, while I may know what’s best for them from a legal perspective, they know what’s best for them from a human perspective. If the 2 perspectives form the frame in which I work, there is an opportunity to build a lasting bridge that benefits us both.
Yes, I like these days better because today’s changes are bringing transparency, accountability, client collaboration, and more flexible fee arrangements. All of that combines in a formula providing more people access to the legal system and the protections and justice it brings.
Of course, there will unfortunately still be “dream teams” but there will be more “Cinderellas,” too. Of course, there will be growing pains, more oopses, and battles between the old and new guards. However, if the changes we’re experiencing in the legal field mean more of our society will receive the legal services they need, I am very thankful for these changes, indeed.
Now, let’s eat!
Send me an e-mail or comment below and I’ll tell YOU what the asterisk (*) after the “Flux,” means.