This is the age of the customer. The asymmetrical advantage that sellers long held over buyers is gone. Consumers have access to market information and choice that has transformed the buy-sell dynamic. Social media provides them with a reference source and a voice. The balance of power has shifted from the supply to the demand side.
During a recent visit to the National University of Singapore Law School (NUS), I asked a first-year student what being a lawyer meant to him. His response was thoughtful and prescient: "I regard law as a skill. I plan to leverage my legal training and meld it with my passion for business, technology, and policy. For me, law is not about practice." The distinction between practicing law and engaging in the delivery of legal services--the business of law--is critically important to a wide range of existing and prospective legal industry stakeholders.
Axiom hired a new CEO from Gartner. Deloitte launched its Legal Business Services offering. UnitedLex hired a Chief Digital and Transformation Officer from Genpact. These moves were announced within a ten-day period. The concurrence of the announcements might be coincidental but the reasons behind them are anything but. Big money is betting heavily on business and tech-trained leadership to guide legal service providers into the digital age.
The legal industry is known for adherence to precedent, not innovation. While precedent remains a guiding principle in the practice of law, innovation is transforming the models, methods, and players involved in the buy/sell process of legal services. Technology, process, access to institutional capital, re-reregulation, client demand for enhanced value, and changes in other professional service industry delivery models--notably medicine and accounting-- are legal innovation's principal drivers. Legal innovation has lagged compared with other industries. Law's Uber has yet to pull up to the curb.