MCLE Self-Study Article Shouldn’t We be Helping to Lead the Way to the Future of Legal Services?

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MCLE Self-Study Article Shouldn’t We be Helping to Lead the Way to the Future of Legal Services?

By Lee Kanon Alpert, Esq.
Alpert, Barr & Grant

Strong and effective law practice management services are central to the successful client relationship; that is a given. But what are we doing now to prepare to assist our clients for the business changes futurists are now predicting?

This year’s Legal Futures Conference, which took place in October of 2013 and is put on annually by the College of Law Practice Management, focused on, "The Future of Legal Services from the Buyers’ Viewpoint." After exploring the predicted global trends, attendees applied this knowledge to a variety of industries to start the conversation about how these trends will begin to impact the way legal services are delivered in the future. Many think the future is now.

The Trends

The following trends were synthesized by Ann Lee Gibson, of Ann Lee Gibson Consulting1 Ms. Gibson gave a riveting TED talk on this topic identifying these trends.

According to the National Intelligence Council, which published a report about global trends, uncertainties, and possible future scenarios for the next 15 to 20 years, our planet is expected to face some tectonic shifts.

Some Facts to Consider

  • In 2010 the world’s population was 6.9 billion
  • In 2011 the corporate Global 500 generated $30 trillion in revenue.
  • By 2020 the world’s population will be 7.7 billion
  • By 2020 Global 500 revenue will double to $60 trillion
  • By 2030 the world’s population will be 8.4 billion, and 60% will live in cities. For the first time in history, more than half the world will be living above the poverty line.

The Global Trends

  1. Individual Empowerment – This trend will accelerate over the nest 15 – 20 years due to poverty reduction, growth of the middle class, more education, new communications, manufacturing technologies and improved health care. Individuals will use their power to cause both productive and destructive effects.
  2. Diffusion of Power – Going forward, there will be no world-wide hegemonic power. Real power will shift to networks and coalitions in a multi-polar world. Temporary networks will spring up inside and between enterprises.
  3. Changing Demographic Patterns – We will see unprecedented and widespread aging. Global migration will increase as both rich and developing nations suffer from workforce shortages.
  4. The Nexus between Food, Water and Energy – The demand for these will grow substantially due to increasing populations. By 2030 the demand for food and water will rise 40%. Tackling problems that pertain to any one of these commodities is linked to the supply and demand for the other two.

Interesting Outcroppings

  1. Wider Access to Lethal and Disruptive Technologies – A broader spectrum of war — especially precision-strike capabilities, cyber instruments and bioterror weaponry will become accessible. Individuals and small groups will have the capability to perpetuate large-scale violence and disruption.
  2. Clear Shift of Economic Power to the East and West – The U.S., European and Japanese share of global income is expected to fall from 56% today to well under half by 2030. By 2020 emerging markets’ shares of financial assets is projected to almost double.
  3. Unprecedented and Widespread Aging – In 2012 only Japan and Germany had a median age above 45-years. But most countries will enter this post-mature category. Workforce shortages are expected. 5. Urbanization – Today’s roughly 50% urban population will climb to nearly 60%, or 4.9 billion people in 2030.
  4. U.S. Energy Independence – Shale gas will give the U.S. enough natural gas to meet domestic needs and to generate potential global exports for decades. Global spare capacity may exceed over 8 million barrels at which point OPEC would lose price control and crude oil prices would collapse, causing a major negative impact on oil-export economies.
  5. There is much discussion that diverse non-governmental institutions and individuals will develop and use their influence to solve global problems and forward their own agendas.

What Does this Mean to the Practice of Law?

Virtually every industry will be impacted by these trends over time from health care to manufacturing to agriculture to technology. Companies of all sizes will be seeing and feeling the impact of these trends starting now. It is not too soon for attorneys and law firms to begin a dialogue with their clients about the future. As business professionals perhaps it is our duty to have conversations with our clients about how these global changes may impact how they do business, what their future legal needs may be and how they will prefer the delivery of legal services based on these anticipated changes.

A Practical Look

Let’s take a look at healthcare as an example of how these global trends will start to impact the reality of everyday business. This is one industry that is changing rapidly in response to these trends and forces.

With aging baby boomers we already see the burgeoning changes to our healthcare systems. According to the research Ms. Gibson presented at the Futures conference, by 2020 public/private healthcare spending will reach $4.5 trillion. By 2025, the healthcare spend will be 25% of the U.S. GDP.

Ms. Gibson provided the following healthcare example.

Of course healthcare is an umbrella industry that includes big pharma, medical devices, primary and long-term care and hospital services.

By way of example, government and non-governmental groups as well as private payers are pushing back hard on hospital pricing. So are consumer activists and journalists. The futurists predict there will be significant labor shortages of doctors, nurses, and other workers that may push prices back up. This may force the creation of new technologies and changes to what services are offered and what consumers will spend.

Currently large hospital systems are run mostly by white men, including the general counsels. That may change. Below the executive lawyer the in-house legal staff is much more diverse. According to Ms. Gibson, those who procure outside counsel right now are mostly GenXs and soon to include Gen Ys.

These in-house counsels discuss their challenges with each other so savvy law firms keep lawyers seconded inside the company to better serve them and to gather intelligence. Some firms have already figured out ways to keep these seconded attorneys permanently in-house to safe guard those relationships and to keep abreast of changing regulations. These outside firms may also offer training for the in-house counsel as well.

Smart law firms are adding resources to stay ahead of their clients’ future needs. The planning process has begun to keep their clients satisfied and loyal. They may bundle services and are for sure exploring more predictability in fees.

This healthcare example has many analogous applications for small and mid-size law firms. What client would not value its outside lawyer’s initiative to meet with them to discuss their needs and to prompt a discussion about changes that may already be impacting their industry for the future?

A Possible Conclusion

The future is now. It’s that simple. Review the facts and consider the opportunity that is right in front of us. We have the power to enhance our relationships with our existing clients. Someone is talking to your clients…is it you?

About the Author

Lee Kanon Alpert is a founding and current shareholder of Alpert, Barr & Grant (www.alpertbarr.com). As a registered lobbyist and attorney, Lee is a recognized leader and innovator. For over 30-years Lee has been successfully assisting individuals and businesses in achieving their goals. He brings unparalleled experience as a community and civic leader serving a myriad of government, community, non-profit, philanthropic, healthcare and infrastructure boards and organizations. Lee is married to his wife of 43 years, and resides in Northridge, California with their English Labrador Retriever, Kooper, who is trained therapy dog.

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Notes:

1. Ann Lee Gibson Consulting: www.annleegibson.com