Legal Business Blogs

Comment: Paradigm shift vs recession – responding to a sceptical reader

We recently posted a comment piece addressing the issue of whether the forces impacting on the legal market represent a permanent structural shift or are just the result of a horrendous recession. Dry stuff that will leave the professional pulse unmoved for most, but still pretty fundamental to whether law firm leaders should start launching their Lawyers on Demand rip-offs and outsourcing anything that moves in a desperate attempt to future-proof their business.

One professional observer felt I was underplaying the level of permanent change facing the profession, and was kind enough to send me some research they have produced in the area.

Below is an email I sent in response, which on reflection I thought had a certain off-the-cuff economy in summarizing my line of argument (with a bit of minor cleaning up for typos and clunkiness). I suppose the fundamental point is that I don’t know the answer and I believe that anyone pretending they are doing more than making varying degrees of educated guesses is probably trying to sell you something:

Hello XXX

I didn’t just walk in here off the street, so I’ve seen a lot of data from different sources over the years. At a very, very cursory glance – your book doesn’t get close to making a definitive case for a primarily structural issue in law, in my personal opinion. Indeed – this debate is shot through with a lot of loose assertions about a conclusion that – even with years of data, substantial resource and brilliant analytical judgement – would be very hard to make convincingly one way or another for the foreseeable future.

I don’t argue that this change [in the legal industry] isn’t structural – it may well be – I’m disputing the unproven claims repeatedly put out that it is beyond doubt or some form of scientific fact.

As a pretty experienced business reporter when I see anyone, in any industry, start making such claims without unambiguous data to back it up (and, of course, in some cases the picture is so stark as to be beyond any reasonable debate), I check my wallet.

However, while I stand by what I have just said, I’m currently staring down a line of deadlines and haven’t had time to give your work proper consideration, which I will do.

I’m sure – though we disagree on the cyclical point – that there are many interesting insights in there and I always try to keep an open mind.