At this year's Bar Leadership Forum I had to opportunity to rub shoulders with some great forward thinkers about the future of the legal profession -- not just the impressive panelists, Jeff Kirkey, Linda Rexer, Rebecca Simkins, and Brian Wassom -- but also forum participants. The graphic above, a word cloud capturing some drivers and emerging characteristics of law practice today -- is a metaphor for the challenges ahead, a world in which much of the material that lawyers have used to provide legal services in the past is accessible to a public eager to try "do-it-yourself" lawyering, often without a clue about the personal peril involved. At the same time, despite its perils, the Internet can be a tool to help the public better understand their rights and responsibilities and to help lawyers cut the costs involved in serving clients.
How is the graphic a metaphor for what's happening? In the past, if you had no talent and training and you wanted an attractive graphic to convey a customized message you needed to work with a graphic artist. Today, you can go online, type in some words, follow the directions, play around for a few minutes, and, for free, create an attractive graphic. Of course, it's not the quality or uniqueness you get by working with a graphic artist, but for some purposes it does the trick. And did I say it is free?
Hold your angry comments about how legal services are different than artistic services. Granted. But as a profession one of the challenges we face is how to help the public better understand the pitfalls of self-representation at the same time that we learn how to make our legal services more affordable through techology.