(Re)gazing into the future
Much food for thought here. These developments are well worth our close attention.
The suggestion near the end that law profs are more or less asleep at the switch is jarring, and thankfully somewhat overstated. For many law profs, there is a “this too will pass” sensibility and that is, for various reasons, unconstructive and downright worrisome. For the rest, there is a commitment to thinking through just how best to integrate foundational legal training and inculcation of critical professional values into this new world in which lawyers face vigorous competition in the law space by folks who haven’t been so trained. This does not, in and of itself, suggest that law profs are not paying attention to change; it suggests that the integration of this changing landscape into an embedded set of educational practices — or, to put it more charitably, a coherent model of how best to educate lawyers (a subset of those who will engage with law and legal disputes) — is a quite challenging, and obviously important, venture.
One other point about the common narrative: Let’s be clear that these LPOs are in business to make money. No shame in that, certainly. But framing these companies as noble warriors coming to the rescue of a fat-and-happy profession in steep decline is not really the best framing. For every Novus there are a steady supply of would-be entrepreneurs (frequently out-of-work lawyers) who are scrambling to capture some market share of a market that is just being defined. The larger social value question of whether and to what extent the successful of these companies will widen access to legal services and improve the performance of the legal system remains to be answered. For now, the most accurate narrative, to me, sees this principally as a fascinating employment story (and a critically important one at that).