The lord chief justice, Lord Judge, has not spoken much about the organisation of the legal profession since assuming the role, which made last week’s slightly cryptic call to arms all the more interesting.
There was some head scratching at the Institute of Legal Executives luncheon at which he spoke, but on examining his words more closely, the point seems clear: significant change is coming fast and lawyers shouldn’t wait for it to shape the way they practise – they should take the initiative, especially when it comes to harnessing new technology.
This is not an unfamiliar message, but it is regularly repeated because large swathes of the profession do not seem to take heed. In the midst of the recession, it is perfectly understandable that lawyers are focusing on the here and now, and particularly the bottom line, but then that is what most do even when times are good.
The reality is that we are just two years away from the first alternative business structures. Technology is already putting far greater power in the hands of clients. Law firm business plans should be addressing these issues now.
How many times has the profession, through inertia and a lack of entrepreneurial spirit, let others steal its territory? Most recently, claims management companies did it, but the agonising they have caused could be nothing compared to what is coming over the horizon.