After the pandemic: A rush toward legal regulatory reform?
A conversation with legal analyst Jordan Furlong on sweeping new reforms of the regulation of legal services in North America.
How has the legal profession fared during the pandemic compared to the previous major economic crisis in 2008? "Reasonably well," according to legal industry analyst Jordan Furlong in this month's podcast. "I think, for the most part, we've […] learned from the lessons of the past. We learned, don't fire everybody because you're going to have this massive gap in people going forward."
That and a greater willingness, this time around, to invest in technology as a means of capturing legal work is fundamentally changing how firms prioritize where they spend their money. "The prediction in the industry I'm seeing," says Furlong, "is that the lease costs, the physical presence costs are going to shrink and the technology costs, or at least the investments, are going to go up.
Even then, when all is said and done, perhaps the biggest story of the past year that will end up having a long-term impact on the industry is the decision by the Utah Supreme Court
to create a regulatory legal sandbox that allows people who aren't lawyers to offer specific legal services in a controlled environment. Not to be outdone, Arizona has decided to skip the experiment by changing its rules to allow for alternative business structures, along the lines of what we've seen develop in England & Wales over the last decade. And now British Columbia has launched its version of a regulatory sandbox.
We discuss all this and more, including whether, ultimately, the next big push for regulatory reform might not just come from the law firms themselves, who are realizing that they need to access capital – lots of it – to compete in the 21st century.
For those interested in Furlong's work, he has recently authored a report presented to the Law Society of Alberta offering recommendations on lawyer licensing and competence. And check out his blog at law21.ca. You can also follow him on Twitter @jordan_law21.
Listen to the podcast.