Today’s Legal Marketplace is a hot seat.

Imagine today’s legal marketplace as a hot seat in Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, the Nigerian game show with your friendly foe, Frank Edoho. Frank, sitting right in front of you, has put the question to you—the decisive question that will either make you N25 million richer or 25 million times more miserable. Your doubts are rising. You have used up all your options—you can’t ask the audience for help. You can’t call a friend. You can’t trim the possible answers to 2. And of course, you dare not trust Frank! It’s YOUR call. You either show some guts or go home with a miserable compensation. Your forehead is suddenly heating up, steaming on TV. Your heart is beating faster—way faster than the seconds ticking away. You are in this alone.

Today’s legal marketplace presents a similar challenge for lawyers—especially young lawyers. It’s a challenge that only you must face. And this time what is at stake is worth much more than N25 million. What is at stake is your future in the legal profession. This is why failing to take control of your future is as good as gambling with it.

The legal profession is neither a gamble nor a game. It is a learned profession that requires precision. Precision in the legal career requires that you know exactly where you are, where you want to be, and how you need to get there.

Are you a millionaire?

When I shared the original version of this article on LEaP, a leading WhatssApp group for lawyers and aspiring lawyers, the question above was a lawyer’s first reaction. I think it’s a good question. If you are also asking the same question, below was exactly my answer:

Good question. I also asked myself the same question when I started writing the article. And I told myself, ‘YES’. To be able to show people how to become millionaires in today’s legal marketplace, I should either have used the same formula to become a millionaire or I have started using the formula and well on my way to not just becoming a millionaire, but a billionaire [a success]. 

Becoming successful is a journey, not a destination. I have been succeeding with my formula and I had like young lawyers who I am really targeting in my articles and public presentations to dare themselves and start the same journey with me. Starting is where success begins, not at the end. I encourage all young lawyers to dare to start first. Never be afraid to start small and grow big. I have started small. The big growth will come. 

My articles are targeted at young lawyers. I am not big enough to show big men and women in the industry how to become big [at least not yet].

Disruption Era is where you are now and it is a new change that will revolutionize the future of the legal profession.

Today, disruption is the new change. Everything from how we bank to how we communicate is being disrupted. The legal industry is no exception. It may be time to disrupt yourself too.

The legal marketplace is changing fast globally. Legal technology or ‘legal tech’—as it is now widely known—is one of the biggest disruptions in the legal industry.

Beyond technology, this disruption will affect how law firms operate and how lawyers charge legal fees. This will result in an unavoidable and inescapable result that will change the dynamics in the legal marketplace.

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Technology, business operation, and billing system for legal services are being disrupted today.

Technology will continue to change the way lawyers do business (business operation); how clients pay for legal services (billing system); and who lawyers work with (staffing). These 3 aspects of law business and legal practice will have great effect on the legal industry, and consequently the level of professional opportunities available to lawyers, particularly young and aspiring lawyers.

Technology and international business expansions are creating new opportunities for the legal industry. Only lawyers who strategically position themselves for these new opportunities will be able to effectively take professional advantage of these opportunities.

Lawyers—particularly young and aspiring lawyers—cannot continue to only wait for their professional associations or legal-practice regulators to help them expand opportunities to benefit their legal careers.

Today’s lawyers and aspiring lawyers must secure their own future.

Securing a future requires taking competitive advantage of 4 things:

  1. Today’s broader and specialized continuing legal education (CLE) and continuing professional development (CPD) programs (think of taking on courses in Arbitration & ADR, business development, cyberlaw & cyber security, data and privacy protection, emotional intelligence, financial intelligence, intellectual property, leadership management, etc);
  2. Today’s disruptive legal tech for smarter law business and law practice (think of Blockchain {“the new black in law”}, Artificial Intelligence {AI}, law-practice management softwares, legal analytics; smart contracts, virtual law office models);
  3. Today’s open space for professional networking opportunities enhanced by Internet technology (think of LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional media network); and
  4. Today’s mobile tools for collaborative work and on-the-go brainstorming for possible partnerships (think of freemium Google tools provided by a simple Gmail address!).

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Today’s disruptions in the legal industry are, like Lady Justice, without fear or favour.

According Deloitte in ‘Future Trends for Legal Services—Global Research Study‘, June 2016, 4, “[c]onventional law firms are no longer meeting today’s business needs. The majority (55%) of participants in the study (legal counsel, general counsel — or CEOs and CFOs) have taken or are considering a significant review of their legal suppliers.”

That’s not all. Today’s clients also want a new type of legal-services provider. How? Read this: “One in three legal services purchasers surveyed want their legal services provider to bring industry, commercial and non-legal expertise, which currently they do not. They also want law firms to be more savvy on global data and cyber security protection issues and more pro-active in sharing knowledge across many jurisdictions.”

If you are panicking already, wait for this: Have you ever imagined that big businesses will be happy to buy legal services from nontraditional law firms? Well, up to 52% of the participants in the study say ‘YES’; 26% say ‘NO’; while 22% of the participants are not quite sure. But you can be sure about this: companies and firms lawyers consider to be their target markets are fast “shifting purchasing patterns.”

When are you making the shift in your legal-services selling patterns? The earlier you start making strategic business-operation decisions for your law business or legal practice, the better for your future.

In fact, that future may already be here. As captured in ‘Global Legal Tech is Transforming Service Delivery‘ by Mark A. Cohen, a Law Lecturer at Georgetown and Forbes contributor, “Nearly 31,000 legal jobs have already been eliminated by technology.” And within the next 2 years, about 114,000 legal jobs will be automated, further contracting the already lean legal-job market.

Secure your future in the exciting disruptions unleashed on us.

I know. Deloitte has brought bad news, but it could be good for you. If you start repositioning yourself today, you can play an exciting part in the future predicted in the report.

To ride on the wings of that future, you need to realize that knowing the law will not be all that you need to know but also knowing what additional skillsets you need to learn and develop for a more rewarding legal career. Mark A. Cohen also emphasized this when he pointed out that:

“[l]awyers today not only need to ‘know the law’ but they must also have a suite of additional skillsets that include: understanding technology’s role in legal delivery (a competency requirement in many States); business fluency; cultural awareness; process and project management; client skills; emotional intelligence (‘EQ’ a/k/a ‘people skills’); social media/personal brand building; and an ability to interact with clients. More inter-disciplinary study–especially  business, technology, and communications– is important because the boundaries between and among the professions are blurring.”- Mark A. Cohen, ‘Why the Legal Industry Must Embrace Diversity, Technology, and Collaboration‘.

I have been emphasizing the point above in most of my articles and public presentations on how today’s lawyers can become 21st-century lawyers in a new legal economy to enable them become more competitive and successful in the legal marketplace.

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To be a millionaire (or billionaire) in today’s legal marketplace, you must create value.

The legal profession is a noble profession. And because it is noble, it is learned. Part of being learned in both substance and in form is to have the ability and capacity to create value for the society. So while I appreciate that to become a successful lawyer in today’s legal marketplace is not all about becoming a millionaire, this noble profession can legally make you a millionaire. And yes, a billionaire too. It is all about creating value, not indulging in unethical and ignoble behavior as a number of lawyers—including some senior members of the bar—now do. When you focus your lawyering skills (and soft skills) to create value, you will succeed.

But creating value in this disruption era in the legal industry should not just remain lip service, but a culture—the way of life of the law. This is why in one of my discussions with my team at Infusion Lawyers recently, I introduced them to what I call ‘The Success Transition Concept’. It states, in an ascending and transitional order, that:

“[t]o succeed, we must create opportunities. To create opportunities, we must solve problems. To solve problems, we must create solutions. To create solutions, we must understand the problems. To understand the problems, we must become the person or thing experiencing the problems. To become that person or thing, we must be human. And to be human is to empathize.”

Empathy is why 3 of the world’s most powerful brands are in business, and will continue to be.

Apple, Google, and Microsoft all put themselves in your position, experience what you experience, and then use this analytics to deliver a new experience to you—just the way you wish the experience could be.

That is empathy at work. Make it work for you too.

Law firms—particularly traditional law firms—are terrible at this. Lawyers often focus on themselves, to their own detriment, ironically. You can change that, and you should (to your own competitive advantage for a successful future).

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The future is now.

Whether you like it or not, in today’s highly competitive legal marketplace, you are on a Who Wants to Be a Millionaire hot seat. And your time starts counting NOW.

Senator Iyere Ihenyen is the Lead Partner of Infusion Lawyers, a virtual IP & IT law firm. Who Wants to be a Millionaire in the legal marketplace? was first published on The PALM, an online law magazine. Download here.

About the author

Senator Iyere Ihenyen

Senator Iyere Ihenyen writes on Information Technology and Intellectual Property. He contributes to Legal Technology and Today's Lawyer. Senator is the Lead Partner of Infusion Lawyers, an IP & IT law firm.

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