This review was first published in the Law Society Gazette and is reproduced with kind permission.
What does the future hold for law firms? In Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer, Chrissie Lightfoot offers guidance on how to be successful from 2015 to 2045. The next 30 years will be dominated by the rise of artificial intelligence, and therein lies both tremendous danger and opportunity.
Cognitive computing (computers that do not need humans to teach them how to get smarter) has already started in a support function, but it will rise up the chain to do what humans do – only better, faster and cheaper.
Until robots are directly instructing lawyers, humanity can still rely on its soft skills to out-compete those ever smarter machines to win a client’s business; though such business will still be delivered, to differing degrees, by computers.
Lightfoot zeroes in on how to win business in ‘tomorrow’s world’ – her answer remains the same as in her first book, The Naked Lawyer, and it is to ‘get naked!’. By this she means be yourself. Do not hide behind a corporate brand. Interact directly over social media with clients and potential clients with your own personal brand.
So, what does Lightfoot predict is the future for law firms? Well, large firms and new entrants have been investing quietly in social media and artificial intelligence for some time. Expect to see a serious return on that investment in the next five years. Small firms simply do not have the time or cash to match this investment.
However, the big firms with their larger databanks can profitably come down the value chain and out-compete on at least three of the usual key buying factors for small and medium-sized clients: service, value, quality and brand. So firms need to invest heavily in technology, while lawyers in firms without the ability to invest need to think about future-proofing their own careers.
Lightfoot concludes that we will see a rise in the growth of firms such as Keystone Law (my own firm), Obelisk, Gunnercooke and Halebury. They have the cash to spend on technology but are also agile enough to allow lawyers a work-life balance.
Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer is readable, fast-paced and engaging. For lawyers unaware of the seismic shift set to shake up both the technology and legal industries, it is a wake-up call. For those already alive to the changes that lie ahead it offers well-researched evidence and insights.
William Robins is operations director at Keystone Law