The Legal Whiteboard: Hello World

Welcome to the blogging world, Bill Henderson and Andy Morriss and their new blog, The Legal Whiteboard.  It promises to fill an important missing link in the discussion of the future business models of the legal profession and legal education.  From the inaugural post by Bill Henderson:

 

According to a lot of reputable media outlets, the sky is falling for both legal education and legal services.  I understand the basis for this conclusion.  A lot of lawyers, young and old, are unemployed or underemployed.  The debt loads of graduating students are staggering.  The established “brand” law firms are doing something they have never done before — shrink, or at least not grow.  This puts lawyers on edge and has a tendeny to spawn unhealthy, short-sighted behavior.  The federal government, through the direct lending of the Department of Education, continues to fuel the lawyer production machine.  So things may get worse before they get better.

Despite the fact that I am one of the go-to people on the speaker circuit when it comes time to talk about structural change, I am not in the sky-is-falling camp.  Instead, I see a lot of opportunities for lawyers, law students and legal educators to do very important and creative work.  What is most exciting about this work is that it will make society better off – law will become better, faster and cheaper.  Many legal services will become more standardized, productized and commoditized.  I realize that these words will rankle some of the old guard, particularly those still making a good living under the bespoke model.  But clients – including corporations, government and ordinary citizens—will love it.  Professional ideals will remain the cornerstone of successful legal enterprises, but denying the exigencies of the marketplace is, to my mind, unprofessional.

Because clients and society want better, faster and cheaper law, I believe lawyers (including legal educators) have a professional duty to ardently pursue this goal.  The hardest part of this assignment – and the most vexing and interesting – is how to parlay this transformation into a decent living.

Many people assume that the new paradigm means lawyers working longer hours for lower wages.  That is one future business model.  But I think it utterly lacks imagination.  Lawyers are problem solvers.  To my mind, the growing price elasticity for legal services and legal education is just a very difficult problem.  And whenever I am faced with a very difficult problem, I typically start writing out my thoughts on a massive whiteboard.  (I am told it is quite a spectacle to behold.)  I am also someone who loves to collaborate.  With an outward facing Legal Whiteboard, I am hoping to elicit the genius of my fellow travelers.

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