NewLaw & BigLaw, what’s the deal?

George Beaton predicted the collapse of BigLaw and the rise and flourishment of NewLaw in his book, “NewLaw New Rules – A conversation about the future of the legal services industry” in which BigLaw, referencing the traditional partnership and billable hour model is compared to NewLaw, the emerging model of alternative legal service providers that do not fit the traditional law firm mold, providing legal advice and services in alternative models ,with different pricing options. (Chalmers, 2018) Now, 6 years down the line, it is clear that although BigLaw is nowhere near to collapsing in on itself into extinction, NewLaw is rising, evident from more clients seeking alternative legal services and pricing options and more legal professionals and legal graduates moving away from the traditional practice of law.

BigLaw is criticized for being too close minded, too traditional and money hungry, often portrayed as a machine with associates working long hours so more billable’s can be charged to ultimately increase the profits of the partners and directors. (Ryan, 2017) While, NewLaw is criticized for being too alternative, too hippy to provide real legal advice and services and for ultimately rendering legal services in such a way that in the end more litigation is created than resolved, requiring the BigLaw firms to clean up the mess.

Despite the apparent differences between BigLaw and NewLaw , they would be well served by learning from each other. BigLaw has the benefit of years of experience ,specialized departments and top legal talent, while NewLaw has the benefit of flexibility, agility and innovation. While it would be preferable for a partnership to be created between NewLaw and BigLaw structures, be well assured that NewLaw given their pioneering spirit, adaptability and open-mindedness to alternatives, will with time be able to surpass BigLaw in respect of experience, specialized departments and top legal talent, finding new and alternative ways of providing same to their clients at half the cost of the BigLaw Firms.

In the end, the reality is that the legal industry is itself trying to adapt and evolve with the thoughts and business models proposed by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, with the result that we are currently in a twilight zone in which NewLaw and BigLaw are competing against each other while simultaneously collaborating.

Whether you are in the corner of BigLaw or NewLaw, the reality is that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is requiring changes and innovation in the interpretation, application and practice of law. The BigLaw firms will most likely not become extinct given their experience, however will benefit from looking to NewLaw on ways legal advice and services can be provided other than through the traditional model of lengthy consults, drafting and billable’s.

Interested in hearing some personal stories from lawyers who made the leap? Join us at our upcoming Masterclass on BigLaw BreakUps on 15 August in Cape Town.

Written by Kristi Erasmus

A Take on the Legal Innovation & Tech Fest

Change is a knocking and the legal industry is ready to answer its call. The possibilities and opportunities presented by  legal tech and AI and how it will impact and change legal practice,  is no longer discussed in whispers and hushed tones. No, in fact it is discussed openly and loudly, sending a clear message that the legal industry is ready to disrupt,  rather than be disrupted.  This was clearly evident from the second annual Legal Innovation and Tech Fest, held 10 – 11 June 2019 at the prestigious Maslow Hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg, which can only be described as stumbling through a tech labyrinth of wonder and amazement.

With over 35 different organisations, 40 local and international speakers and 200 delegates, it is clear that legal professionals are living through a digital tech renaissance, so aptly christened by Chrissie Lightfoot, legal futurists and owner / CEO of Robot Lawyer Lisa, referring to today’s rapid, exponential change, development and advancement of AI and technology. This fact was well illustrated by the evolution, growth and increasing tech utilisation by Juta, as discussed by company CEO, Kamal Patel,illustrating how Juta has grown and innovated, using tech and AI software to provide new legal services and possibilities with Juta’s newest product offering – Juta Evolve, which is set to significantly impact how legal professionals conduct legal research and prepare for trial and/or argument.

It is accepted that majority of the work that legal professionals perform, whether in practice or as in house counsel, can be streamlined with legal tech and software ,  with pioneering technology and digital developments coming from new, alternative law service providers and Fintech industries, bringing competition from outside the legal fraternity, from an industry that has an upper hand in making the law and its procedures faster and more efficient,  due to their own layman frustrations and misunderstanding of the law. A fact perfectly personified by Guy Stern,the founder, developer and CEO of Baobab Law, despite having no legal background, having studied computer science, but who having gone through a legal matter himself and experiencing first-hand the frustration and uncertainty experienced by a layperson in regard to a legal matter,  created Baobab Law, a decentralised case management application for lawyers, paralegals and clients to record all communications and interactions relevant to a legal case to ensure all are up to date as to the progress of the legal matter at hand.

The golden thread throughout the conference, as summarised by Knowledge Partner at Bowman’sCathy Truter, expressly acknowledged and noted in every keynote, workshop and panel discussion: “Legal professionals must disrupt or be disrupted”.

Warren Hero, (Chief Technology and Information Officer at Webber Wentzel), emphasised that lawyers need to “see now, see more, see new”  in  the tomorrow of today and the future of the legal industry and the way we understand, interpret and practice the law.

We as legal professionals need to ensure that we stay abreast of legal tech changes and innovation to ensure that we “Reskill; Upskill and Newskill”, as put by Tammy Beira(Talent Partner at Bowman’s) to ultimately allow for the coming into being of the Fourth Industrial lawyer, the so called Augmented lawyer. The Augmented Lawyer, as baptized by Kevin Oliver (Head of Advance Delivery (Tech) at Allen & Overy), will continue to practice law and provide legal services and advice to clients, however will change the means and manner of doing same, by utilising technology, AI and available Legal tech software and tools to increase the efficiency of legal service delivery. Legal Innovation and Technology is, as summed up by Rico Burnett(Director of Client Innovation at Exigent)about Technological enablement and not deployment.

The question however remains how legal tech and innovative AI tools will be utilised by the legal industry? Will it be used to drive more efficiency, to provide for more billable hours and so increase legal fees , costs and profits? Or will it be used to improve access to justice in light of the reality that due to the high costs of legal matters, the national wage, the minimum wage, increasing income disparity and inequality, economically speaking,  only the wealthier 10%  of the South African population can afford access to justice and related legal services.

Want to know more about legal tech and AI and the future of law tomorrow – see www.futureslawfaculty.co.za

 

Author

Kristi Erasmus

Head of Futures Law Faculty

info@futureslawfaculty.co.za

 

What the heck is blockchain anyway?

Blockchain is one of the many hyped up buzzwords of our times. Everywehre you go, people interject it into their talk and strategies or features. But what does it actually mean? And more importantly, as lawyers, what is the hype all about and should we be caring?

Dissecting blockchain seems to be the only way to understand it, because as soon as you venture into its constituent parts, intricately connected, there’s far more tech speak than any of us lawyers can pretend to muster. It feels a little like reading Latin in your first year of law or piecing together Roman law with our modern Constitution.

So what is blockchain, if one had to try and explain it in Human? It refers to a series of blocks, with each block presenting an individual transaction operating on an internet connected network, linked together by a series of rules. The rules are preprogramed and serve to govern the transactions that are automatically concluded between two peer groups (contracting parties) on the network  when the preprogramed rules are complied with, without the need for a central, “trusted” authority to render them valid.

The predetermined rules, known as consensus rules, manages the transactions and how the parties interact with each other and the transactions on the network by defining, when a transaction would be deemed valid, what the transaction costs would amount to, providing a mechanism by which transactions are validated (similar to a digital signature, password or biometric data) and lastly, the rules on changing the existing consensus rules.

Thus, holistically a blockchain represents a complete ledger of all transactions that have occurred over a series of time, starting with the first transaction known as the Genesis and each transaction concluded thereafter being added to the chain, linking up, as more transactions are undertaken and concluded, to provide for an ever continuing chain between two peers without a central, managing authority.

Blockchain not only offers the ability to store an immense amount of information, which is generally regarded as unmanageable, but also provides for the decentralised, independent verification of information without a central controlling body and for increased certainty as transactions, once they have been concluded are added to the blockchain and cannot be deleted, changed or tampered with unless all parties agree thereto and the consensus rules are amended. (Altman, 2018)

Blockchain holds significant potential in the changing legal landscape, especially in automating routine legal procedures and processes by way of smart contracts, comprised of scripted logic, terms and conditions which allow for automatic execution of basic contracts, such a the renewal of a lease agreement or conclusion of a non-disclosure agreement, which does not require human oversight or negotiations.

With smart contracts, blockchain also creates the potential for the automatic transfer of assets between participants on the peer to peer network where the preprogramed (conveyancing) rules and regulations are complied with, without the need for a controlling, central deed of registries to validate the transfer of ownership, saving time and costs and allowing for easier transfers and better customer relations. Blockchain further offers significant value to the legal field in terms of the immense amount of information it can store, recording pervious legal matters, transactions and events over a long period of time such as irrefutable intellectual property claims or criminal charges and providing legal firms with the opportunity to discover hidden evidence or contradictions that could assist in winning legal argument. (The Legal Executive Institute , 2019) (Altman, 2018)

Now the question is – have you actually ever seen a smart contract? Is this all fiction or is it real?

Join the Futures Law Faculty on 4 July at 5pm at the Inner City Ideas Cartel to delve into this hyped up technology to uncover the truth.

The Presenters:

If there’s one expert in South Africa, it’s Tanya Knowles, Faculty Member of Singularity University and Chairperson of the South African Financial Blockchain Consortium (SAFBC) which is comprised of over 50 members including the country’s largest banks, financial institutions, regulators, consulting and legal firms and start-ups. Tanya has been internationally recognised as one of the leading women in blockchain technology.

Tanya will be joined by Adv Jackie Nagtegaal, a futurist and legal professional that has conducted research into the application of blockchain and legal practice. She will contextualise Tanya’s finding to the legal fraternity and show examples of application from around the world.

 

Get your ticket here. 

 

Environmental Scan: Digital Revolution & Law

To understand the affect of the 4th Industrial Revolution on the practice of law, a scan was conducted on the current trends taking shape in the legal ecosystem.

The following guiding questions were used as a departure point to initiate the scan:

  • How is the industrial revolution shaping our concept of legal rights?
  • Who are the role-players and how are they adopting technology?
  • Where has the funding for legal technology coming from?
  • Is technology enhancing service or changing service?
  • What regulation is in place to enhance or hinder development?
  • What do these questions look like through the STEEP lens?

These aspects were considered globally, and then brought back to focus locally in South Africa. This brings an interesting dynamic to the scan; while the world converges as a result of the 4th Industrial Revolution, the legal systems are still territorial, in application and approach. Due to the different trajectories of growth geographically, the future seems to be happening in different time zones, which corresponds to our understanding, adoption and application of legal rights and how the law is practiced.

Download it here: How the Fourth Industrial Revolution is Shaping the Practice of Law

The Future of Tomorrow

It is an undeniable fact that the future is now and if not now then tomorrow, or sometime from today in the very least.  Regardless of where you draw the boundaries between the past, present and the future or where you regard the future to morph into the present, there is no denying that the future is happening or in the very least will soon be happening.

The future is not about making predictions on what will happen and wagering money on how accurate a prediction is or was not, rather it is about determining the possibilities, probabilities and likelihoods of tomorrow or the next year or of the next 30 years, so as to strategically grow your business to ensure a trajectory for exceptional growth and returns, or in the worst case scenario, ensuring survival where growth is an impossibility.

The Future Today Institute has released it’s 2019 Tech Trend Report that list all trends on the horizon which will undoubtably impact, influence and change various industries and markets including, but not limited too, government, law, media, education and society, serving as a forewarning to all to be aware of and plan business strategies accordingly to ensure best possible growth trajectories and avoid the worst case scenarios identified as possibilities if all goes wrong.

#1 PRIVACY IS DEAD

A recurring fact is that Privacy is extinct, fondly remembered but not consciously missed. We knowingly and more often than not, unknowingly,  generate vast amounts of personal data continuously through various different tech applications, whether through the acceptance of the nondigestible cookies on the website we are browsing or through the face recognition systems used when parking or driving our cars. Large corporates pounce on this vast production of data, proceeding to mine, refine, productized and monetized the data for their own personal gain under the guise of improving customer service and experience. This raises challenges to not only the basic human right of privacy but also in regard to how the data should be stored and safeguarded, not only from non authorised access but also against encoding of biases and best practises when allegedly rendering the data anonymous.

#2 VOICE IS WHERE IT’S AT

As content creators are increasingly focusing more on spoken interfaces, commercialization of Voice Search Optimizations (VSO’s) is the resultant outcome of same and predictions are being made that people will be spending more time talking to their smart devices than typing on them in the year 2020. This holds huge potential as a new, emerging market in which there is yet to be big developments and in which the initial conquers, still to be identified,  will reap substantial returns and market share, while at the same time causing a huge disruption to the business side of search.

#3 THE RISE & CONTROL BY THE TECH GIANTS

Further it is said that the big 9 as opposed to the big 5 will increasingly become responsible for and in control of research tools, data and funding, the degree of government involvement and engagement and consumer preference apps. The Big 9, consisting of the  G-MAFIA in the US being, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, IBM and Facebook, together with the tech heavy weights in China, known as BAT: Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, will also be influential in respect of mergers and acquisitions, tech start-ups and the funding of the next generation of tech developers. This all in all means that more and more companies, particularly in the west will have to choose AI frameworks and cloud providers provided by the big 9, a choice which will not be easily changeable going forward.

Secured login’s and passwords will soon be a trend of the past, replaced by Personal Data Records (PDR’s) which can be regarded as a ledger of all the personal data we generate through the use of various types of technology and related technical applications, including but not limited, to the internet and cell-phone usage and will include other sources of information such as school and work histories, legal records, medical records, financial records, health records,  dating and romantic history and lastly but certainly not finally, shopping history. The Big 9 will use the PDR created by the AI they designed and gave life too, to determine what information will and will not be displayed to you, based on personal interests and preferences as mined, refined and deciphered by the Big 9 for their own market advantage. Although it is hoped that you would be the owner of your own PDR’s which would be inheritable by your next of kin, the Big 9 will act as the custodians of same, undoubtably at a unmentioned, undefined price.

#4 SLOW MOVING REGULATION

Additionally, new regulatory rules, policies and frameworks aimed at providing regulation and structure to the ever developing industries of science and technology will increasingly be proposed , however the application and enforceability of the  the proposed regulations poses a significant challenge given the fast pace of scientific and technological developments and the slow promulgation of legislation and related regulatory frameworks. A challenge that will have to be overcome if any order or direction is to be provided to new sciences and technologies and the impact that it has, will have and could have on the civilisation as we know it.

#5 CONSOLIDATION

Lastly, consolidation as an overall theme remains important as it leads to the concentration of resources in a certain industries, which in turn acts as an accelerator for development and strategy which is great for business, especially where it occurs in the same area or industry. Consolidation across the big tech corporations, news and entertainment media, robotics, home automation and biotech industries will continue to be an important futures trend to monitor and keep an eye on in the years coming.

As is demonstrated by the 2019 Tech Trends, when considering the future and how best to approach it, one should not only look and plan for the future in isolation but should consider it holistically to fully understand what impact the possibilities, probabilities and likelihoods of the future will have on your industry. In accordance to this understanding and comprehending that an industry does not operate in isolation, but in a web of interrelated markets and industries, each undoubtably impacted and affected by the future.

If this interests you, make sure to find out what lurks in the world of law and join us for renowned futurist and business strategist, Anton Musgrave in our upcoming Masterclass – Future Lawyers. 

Kristi Erasmus

 

Freedom of Expression

Every time I start typing a search phrase into the Google search engine, two things happen. First, Google’s autocompletion function provides me with suggestions on how to complete the search, encouraging me to use pre-selected phrases. Second, when I press enter, Google provides me with results for my search in order of “relevance” as determined by Google’s trademark algorithm called PageRank. Content which is not indexed or ranked highly by the Google search engine is less likely to reach a large audience or to be seen at all.

When I log onto Facebook, I do not see the newsfeed posts of my 5000 Facebook friends in the order these were posted, nor do I see adverts randomly placed on the Facebook page. Instead, a Facebook algorithm predicts my user preferences to guide not only what advertisements I might see on my Facebook page, but also to dictate the way my social media feed, including newsfeed, is arranged.

Moreover, if I were to type something on my Facebook page that offends the Facebook community standards, this post may be removed. Content removal on social media platforms often takes place through semiautomated or automated processes. Algorithms are widely used for content filtering and content removal processes, including on social media platforms. While large social media platforms like Google or Facebook have frequently claimed that human beings remove all content, a European Union Report claims that large parts of the process are automated.

These examples all help to demonstrate that algorithms used by large companies like Google and Facebook play a pivotal role in curating information on the internet. This raises serious questions about the impact of such algorithms on the rights of individuals to receive and impart information.

This is so, even where companies like Google and Facebook act in an honourable manner and even when they do not themselves manipulate these algorithms and take steps to prevent them from being manipulated by outside parties (as the Russian government allegedly did in 2016 to try and influence the United States presidential election).

Because of the size of platforms such as Google or Facebook, their centrality in the creation and maintenance of the internet as a quasi-public sphere and their ability to massively amplify certain voices, companies like Google and Facebook are pivotal to ensuring the equal enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression.

Moreover, the personalisation of information that users receive based on the predictions made by algorithms can create “filter bubbles” and may substantially compromise the freedom of expression, which includes the right to information.

An even more pressing concern is that a search algorithm might be biased towards certain types of content or content providers, further leading to an indirect ‘censorship” of information without the general public being aware of it. Leaving aside the question of whether the algorithms used by Google, Facebook or other large internet websites produce biased results, Even if there is

Search engines like Google, and social media sites like Facebook, are privately owned, and in most countries, they are either lightly regulated or not regulated at all. Yet, search engines like Google and social media platforms like Facebook act as crucial gatekeepers for human beings who wish to seek, receive or impart information, raising serious freedom of expression concerns.

Traditional conceptions of the right to freedom of expression do not adequately address the potential impact of algorithm technology on the enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression. The traditional conception of the right to freedom of expression is based on the assumption that freedom of expression is infringed when the state takes action to limit the ability of individuals to impart and receive information.

In this view, the right to freedom of expression is viewed as a negative right enforced against public bodies to prevent them from controlling or limiting the free flow of information. In this view, there is no positive duty on the state to regulate private institutions that play such an oversized role in mediating the imparting and receiving of information. It takes seriously the inherent threat to freedom of expression posed by powerful state actors, but not the threat posed by private institutions like Google and Facebook.

However, the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa contains powerful provisions that allow us to rethink what the contours of the right of freedom of expression. One of the pivotal provision in this regard is section 7(2) of the Bill of Rights states that: “The state must respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights in the Bill of Rights.”

While the duty to “respect” rights imposes a negative duty on the state not to interfere with the enjoyment of a right, the duties to “protect, promote and fulfil” imposes a positive duty on the state to ensure the equal enjoyment of all rights in the Bill of Rights. South Africa’s Constitutional Court has confirmed in several judgments that this positive obligation applies not only to the social and economic rights (like the right of access to housing, health care and water) but also to traditional civil and political rights (such as the right to freedom of expression).

An argument could, therefore, be made that the state (in the form of the national legislature) may have a duty to take positive steps to enhance the ability of individuals to impart and receive information. This would include not only a responsibility to take steps to make access to the internet cheaper and more readily available to all but also to ensure that where private companies employ algorithms to select and order the information we access on the internet, this is done in a fair and relatively transparent manner.

A second pivotal provision is contained in section 8(2) of the Bill of Rights which states that: “A provision of the Bill of Rights binds a natural or a juristic person if, and to the extent that, it is applicable, taking into account the nature of the right and the nature of any duty imposed by the right.” This section confirms that rights do not only apply vertically (binding the state) but in some instances also apply horizontally (binding private parties and legal entities).

This provision is important because it implies that even where the state fails to take positive action to ensure fair access to information on the internet, private companies themselves could be hauled to court whenever evidence emerge that algorithms selecting, ordering or assisting in deleting information have been manipulated to make it more difficult for individuals to access controversial, unpopular or politically sensitive information on the internet.

Reconceptualising the right to freedom of expression requires careful thought. The dangers inherent in state regulation of access to information are apparent, and any intervention by either the legislature or the court will have to continue to take seriously the rights of individuals and businesses to impart and receive information and must guard against unnecessary interference that will limit rather than enhance the substantive enjoyment of the rights to freedom of expression.

In my masterclass, I will explore in more detail how this balance could be struck.

– Pierre de Vos

Professor Pierre De Vos is the current Claude Leon Foundation Chair in Constitutional Governance and Deputy Dean at the University of Cape Town, where he also lectures and teaches Constitutional Law.

Pierre has extensively studied the legal field having obtained a B Comm (Law), LLB and LLM (cum laude) from the University of Stellenbosch, an LLM from Columbia University in New York and an LLD from the University of Western Cape.

 

Article 13 & Coding Law

Over supper last night, my son asked me my opinion on Article 13. As an 11-year old who lives on YouTube, he has been dragged into the debate following YouTube demigods like PewDiePie and Shane Dawson in uproar. My daughter, listening with half an ear, suddenly stretched her eyes, saucer-like: “What? No more memes?”

The European Parliament made some drastic changes to the copyright rules of the European Union. It has caused great debate since its passing over the last few days, my son apparently being the biggest anti-13er of them all.

So what is Article 13 and the uproar all about?

As it stands copyright infringement is the duty of the holder of the rights. If I see you use my content on YouTube or social media for instance, the onus rests on me to protect my rights and notify the relevant platform of the copyright infringement and assert my rights as right-holder. The relevant company is only then expected to remove the content from their platforms.

Article 13 shifts this to the tech companies. Read in full, the understanding is that the responsibility moves to them to ensure their platforms take precautionary steps to possible copyright breaches. (Article 13 has subsequently been renumbered to Article 17, but publicly Article 13 seems to have stuck.)

This has caused an uproar, claiming the tech giants will use pre-filter systems to prohibit copyrighted material from being placed on the platform in the first place.

Goodbye memes! Goodbye GIFs!

“Fare thee well,” cry my young ones.

“The transformation of the internet from an open platform for sharing and innovation into a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users.” – Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the worldwide web and a group of tech companies, in a letter addressing the European parliament in 2018 on the matter.

Is this the case? There’s a lot we don’t understand about AI and the complexity of its full expanse as lawyers and laypeople. But the one thing we do know: there is no way to crack a code as a layperson. From your suitcase lock to a password of your own user account to your pin code. If you’re out, you’re out.

Code as Power

This whole question lead to me to a recent read by Jamie Susskind, Future Politics. In this mammoth undertaking, of profound future concepts into a singular, engaging and surprisingly digestible book, Susskind ventures into the possible world where tech has seeped even further into our world. This new collective world of digital and ‘real’, he refers to as the digital lifeworld.

In this new lifeworld, he discusses the aspect of Code as Power by suggesting that power will take on three forms in the future; that of force, scrutiny and lastly perception-control. All of which are increasingly done by code.

Article 13, case in point. 

If we place the onus on the tech giants to eradicate copyright on their platforms, the platforms will use code to detect copyright. YouTube already has something like this in a system called Content ID. It detects copyrighted music and so forth. With Article 13, this code will become way stronger in its filtering abilities, detecting innocent memes and GIFs as an example and would prohibit the content from being loaded in the first place.

The problem is, no matter how much you try to convince your computer with the upload that it’s legally fine to proceed, it simply won’t. Algorithms don’t get it, yet. As Susskind puts it, “It seeks to generate unambiguous commands with no grey areas or room for interpretation.”

So what happens when the law itself is coded into our world and the sanctions are not after-the fact penalties, but rather preventative measures that disallow us from the act in the first place?

This brings us into a new realm where choice and free will is threatened by code that does not merely flag or report suspicious behaviour, but alters our behaviour.

“Because of code’s ability to direct our conduct in a finely honed way, many distinguished thinkers, following the pioneering work of Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig, have argued that code is law (or at least that code is like law).” – Susskind, Future Politics

No matter how badly I want to get into a password-protected phone, with life saving information, the code disallows me to do so, no matter the circumstance. And so there are many more examples of how code prevents me from doing something. Apple prevents me from sharing my music with others or Amazon prevents me from sharing my eBooks. Code is like a giant aluminium door with a flashing red light – NO ENTRY.

The code preventing bad behaviour is already there and set to be coded into more and more of our world, like self-driving cars. No more speeding or red-line parking, the computer says NO. Article 13 is merely another example pointing to this possible new world where code becomes part of our justice system as enforcer, but without the trial.

Are the G-MAFIA, (Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, IBM and Apple) as Amy Webb calls them, our new enforcers of justice and benefactors of rights? 

Jackie Nagtegaal  is a futurist, with a keen interest in the legal ecosystem. As an admitted advocate who landed in the world of NewLaw, by heading up an alternative legal service and legal tech company, she has a full-circle understanding of the landscape, current trends and future developments.

R.I.P the Billable Hour

We are gathered here today to bid farewell to the Billable Hour and commit her to the Hands of God.

The Billable Hour stood the test of time. She was resilient and adamant not to give up until the very end and had resolute support from her allies in the legal fraternity. She carried the customary fee arrangements that she inherited from generations before her with the grace and tenacity of a noble.

She suffered great criticism over the years from the public; but was revered by attorneys and advocates alike. With the rise of machine learning and auto-document generation the arguments slowly turned more hostile. Why should the public pay per hour for a human being to do something that a computer can do, should do, could do –  more accurately, in an eightieth of the time.

Two camps developed: FOR and AGAINST the Billable Hour. Those FOR the Billable Hour were unyielding in their support for her. They felt uncomfortable without her, how would they charge? How would they make their targets every month? How would they survive? How could we trust a machine to be completely accurate without double checking and how would they charge for the soft touch of the law that only a human being could provide?

Those AGAINST the Billable Hour were concerned that they could only work a certain number of hours a day and so only earn a certain amount in a lifetime if she continued to exist. They felt she had played her part but should retire from the law and that more creative ways to provide legal service and deliver the human touch should be considered. How would we keep up with our international counterparts, how would we stay current and not put ourselves out of business in the long-run?

Apps were becoming available internationally such as “hellodivorce”, an online divorce process in the States and “DoNotPay” an app dealing with disputes regarding flight tickets and parking tickets in the US. While South Africa was still light years away from this by 2018 more than 1000 legal apps were in use around the world that made no use of day-to-day attorneys or advocates. They used algorithms and machine learning to solve disagreements or basic legal processes. How were we going to adapt… or die?

As we commit the Billable Hour back to the earth from which she came, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, we celebrate her wonderful intentions and enthusiasm through her resurrection in the bodies of various new tariff arrangements and cost frameworks using all-inclusive fee arrangements and technology as the back bone of the future of legal in South Africa. The ingenuity and inspiration that her death has given legal practitioners around the world with regards to how they charge for services is moving.

Although dramatic, I don’t believe that this eulogy is as futuristic as some would like to believe. When I speak to legal practitioners about the opportunities that exist beyond the billable hour they stare at me blankly and say, “If clients are willing to pay me fees per hour, I will continue to charge them”, while the ethics of this statement are a whole different article on their own, the truth is that this belief is more firmly held by the legal fraternity than we like to believe.

Instead of focusing on more creative and lucrative ways of billing for business we instead spend our time and energy protecting what we know, when really the concept of retainers and contingency fees are already existing metamorphoses of the Billable Hour as we know her. Let’s be brave and stretch our minds and discover unlimited earning potential and capacity to service more clients outside of the Billable Hour – as she would want us to do in her memory.

Delia is an admitted attorney with over a decade of legal service experience. She was previously CEO of Independent African Mediation for 5 years and is currently Chief Legal Executive of LAW FOR ALL’s diverse legal team of over 350 legally qualified professionals. Her legal teams currently finalize over 100 000 legal cases a year with an 85% in-house successful mediation result. During Delia’s time there, LAW FOR ALL has won the Legal Innovation Award, the Best Large Legal Team in Africa 2017 and the Legal Tech award in 2018.
Books for Future Lawyers

Books For Future Lawyers: 5 Must-Reads to Understand the Future of Law

We love to read; in fact, we’re pretty fanatical about it. The more we read, the wider our understanding of the possibles of tomorrow. If you want to open some windows to the future, we’ve put together our favourite books for future lawyers. These are the books that stand out at the moment, and we simply couldn’t put them down, they’re gripping and shine a light on compelling possible futures. We believe you can’t only read about the future of law; you have to have a broader understanding of the future world, which will help you embed your understanding of how the law evolves within this world.
1. Rebooting Justice: More Technology, Fewer Lawyers, and the Future of Law by Benjamin Barton and Stephanos Bibas

 

If there is one concise book on future possibles in the world of law, this is it. Although it focuses on the American justice system, the trends and solutions are universal.
Rebooting Justice presents a novel response to longstanding problems. The answer is to use technology and procedural innovation to simplify and change the process itself. In the civil and criminal courts where ordinary Americans appear the most, we should streamline complex procedures and assume that parties will not have a lawyer, rather than the other way around. We need a cheaper, simpler, faster justice system to control costs. We cannot untie the Gordian knot by adding more strands of rope; we need to cut it, to simplify it. Get it here.
2. The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee

 

This book is a brilliantly digestible account of the velocity of change and the implications the digital revolution presents us with. As we’re optimists, we love this book for its focus on the possibility of a better world and bounty for all. 
In The Second Machine Age MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee―two thinkers at the forefront of their field―reveal the forces driving the reinvention of our lives and our economy. As the full impact of digital technologies is felt, we will realise immense bounty in the form of dazzling personal technology, advanced infrastructure, and near-boundless access to the cultural items that enrich our lives. Get it here.
3. The Future is Asian by Parag Khanna

 

One thing the West tends to do, is think of their system as the world. With Khanna’s book, your mind opens to the reality that 5 billion people live in the new Asian territory. What does this mean for the practice of law?
The “Asian Century” is even bigger than you think. Far greater than just China, the new Asian system taking shape is a multi-civilizational order spanning Saudi Arabia to Japan, Russia to Australia, Turkey to Indonesia—linking five billion people through trade, finance, infrastructure, and diplomatic networks that together represent 40 percent of global GDP. China has taken the lead in building the new Silk Roads across Asia, but it will not lead it alone. Instead, Asia is rapidly returning to the centuries-old patterns of commerce, conflict, and cultural exchange that thrived long before European colonialism and American dominance. Asians will determine their future—and as they collectively assert their interests around the world, they will determine ours as well. Get it here. 
4. Like a Thief in Broad Daylight by Slavoj Žižek

 

We’re devoted readers of Žižek and his latest book shines a light on big tech and the crumbling systems we’ve built. A fascinating read on our politics and the governments we continually try to protect.
In recent years, techno-scientific progress has started to transform our world – changing it almost beyond recognition. In this extraordinary new book, renowned philosopher Slavoj Zizek turns to look at the brave new world of Big Tech, revealing how, with each new wave of innovation, we find ourselves moving closer and closer to a bizarrely literal realisation of Marx’s prediction that ‘all that is solid melts into air.’ With the automation of work, the virtualisation of money, the dissipation of class communities and the rise of immaterial, intellectual labour, the global capitalist edifice is beginning to crumble, more quickly than ever before and it is now on the verge of vanishing entirely. Get it here. 
5. Tomorrow’s Lawyers: An Introduction to Your Future by Richard Susskind

 

This is an older book, we felt we had to include. Published in 2013, it still holds up. It’s a thin concise read that anyone should read if they are interested in the future of practice by one the leaders in the field.
Tomorrow’s Lawyers is a definitive guide to this future–for young and aspiring lawyers, and for all who want to modernise our legal and justice systems. It introduces the new legal landscape and offers practical guidance for those who intend to build careers and businesses in law. Susskind identifies the key drivers of change, such as the economic downturn, and considers how these will shape the legal marketplace. He then sketches out the new legal landscape as he envisions it, highlighting the changing role of law firms-and in-house lawyers-and the coming of virtual hearings and online dispute resolution. He also suggests solutions to major concerns within the legal profession, such as diminishing public funding, and explores alternative roles for future lawyers in a world increasingly dominated by IT. And what are the prospects for aspiring lawyers? Susskind predicts what new jobs and new employers there will be, equipping prospective lawyers with penetrating questions to put to their current and future bosses. Get it here. 

Have you read any of these must-read books for future lawyers? Share your thoughts with us! To learn more about more about the future of law, attend one of our insightful Learning Experiences.

soft skills for lawyers

Developing Soft Skills for Future Lawyers

The future needs a new type of lawyer.

According to the respected legal futurist, Richard Suskind, it’s no longer just enough to teach the old basic skills of lawyering in the new, AI-driven, automated economy. A new type of lawyer is needed who is not only trained in the use of coding and legal technology, but also in skills that AI will not be capable of automating. These include the very “human” capabilities of creativity, empathy, compassion, and emotional intelligence. More and more if you want to practise law you need to become a trusted adviser to your client, you need the ability to listen, to communicate and relate to others to help solve their legal problems. No matter how technology transforms the legal market place, these skills will remain highly prized.

Being a good lawyer requires more than the ability to get the facts, apply the applicable law, analyse and advocate for your client’s position. It needs humanity and compassion. When I say compassion, what I mean is the ability to feel with – the ability to empathise, tapping into our innate desire to help, and taking steps to alleviate suffering. This ability is what transforms a good lawyer into a great lawyer.

For those looking to future proof their careers, building competencies in areas that machines will be unlikely to tackle effectively (i.e. compassion, empathy, negotiation and problem solving) is likely the best recipe for success.

Developing soft skills for future lawyers.

I believe it starts from the inside out! Psychometrically measuring your current soft skills will give you the foundation from which to work. Like any other skill, these abilities can be nurtured and improved with practice. It boils down to the ability to inspire confidence in your clients so that they can trust your advice. Cultivating these traits provides the opportunity to understand the issues and offer practical solutions. Be honest and give your clients all the knowledge and help possible. The stronger the relationship, the more work and referrals you’ll receive.

Compassion is the foundation for good people skills. Without empathy, you cannot put yourself in your client’s shoes or fully understand the issues your client faces. Without compassion, you cannot understand your adversary’s position, anticipate what they will do, and take pre-emptive steps to benefit your client. Without it, you cannot provide the best solutions.

The report from McKinsey Global Institute has highlighted how it thinks a range of jobs based on human skills are likely to be affected by AI and automation. It emphasises the top skill sets workers will need to develop between now and 2030 if they do not want to be left behind. These skills include emotional intelligence, compassion and empathy.

In my workshop, I will address the soft skills needed as well as give lawyers an understanding of where they are at with regards to their own soft skill levels in the legal industry, while also providing developmental guidelines.

Taking the time to develop your soft skills will set you apart as top legal talent and assist you in taking your legal career to the next level. Take the first step today for a better tomorrow.

– by Sonica Mouton
Futurist & Industrial Psychologist

Sonica Mouton is a futurist, industrial psychologist with a particular interest in coaching future skills and developing strategic solutions for a brave new world.

Sonica has specialised experience in leadership and executive development, talent management, coaching and developmental feedback and in the assessment and integration of specific solutions based on the results of psychometric tools developed and created by herself.

Don’t miss Sonica’s workshop on developing soft skills for future lawyers.