During our recent national event in New Orleans, I gave a presentation about the rapid changes in technology that have devastated a number of industries and professions. I commented that every group thinks their business is exempt. Even as the last one goes out of business there is this surprise and wonder that it could really happen to them. Attorneys are no different. Many believe that our venerable profession is too important or complex to be pushed aside by digital tools, but forces are at work right now to break up the guild mentality and bar association walls. Witness the amazing commercial success of Legal Zoom and the hundred other online resources that are waiting in the wings.
This is neither good nor bad. It’s really just the next iteration of the transformative impact of the microchip revolution. The argument can be made that we should feel no more sympathy for lawyers who didn’t prepare for these changes than people did a century ago for the poor buggy whip industry. It’s been said that in times of great uncertainty, there is great opportunity. For our profession, this is one of those moments. We need to reassess our value proposition to our clients and rearrange our business models to stress those relationship qualities that can’t be replaced by an outsourced worker or bits and bytes.
The entrenchment of this state of denial was brought home to me as I listened to an interview of Seth Godin, the internet guru, author and forward thinker. He was talking about the certain demise of the traditional publishing industry and his recent conversations with executives in that field who presented every excuse as to why they are going to survive. Even more astonishing, he mentioned talks with senior people in the already decimated music industry who are still hanging on to the hope that CDs are going make a comeback.
His point is a simple one. Our capacity for self-delusion in the face of overwhelming evidence is remarkable. As lawyers we can learn from these examples and see the opportunity to immediately make changes so our practices will not only survive, but flourish in this new age.
President & Co-Founder
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
6050 Santo Rd Ste 240
San Diego, CA 92124