The speed and breadth of business change and significant global challenges cannot be mastered by one person, function, enterprise, stakeholder group or nation. Collaboration and fluidity are vital. The legal function has long been a leader in collaborative processes, but it must take this further in order to be relevant and useful for its clients.
The concept of new law is a bit fuzzy and may mean different things to different people. It could be the practice of law in non-traditional settings or it could refer to a new form of legal services that is more cost-effective and focused on process. It might also refer to new types of legal matters or even the fact that we now live in a digital world where data drives much of what we do.
In a general sense, however, it means bringing more value to client matters by working in new ways. The goal is to help clients solve complex issues and navigate uncertainty more efficiently and effectively.
This goal is not new but it is now a much more central focus for many large law firms. It requires a fundamental shift in thinking and approach that is taking hold throughout the industry.
A number of recent developments reflect this shift. First, the legal profession is beginning to think in terms of strategic partnerships rather than transactions. Law firms and in-house legal departments are collaborating more with other businesses and law companies to share resources, expertise, technology, best practices, risk mitigation and synergies that create economies of scale.
Another example is California’s new law on pay transparency. This law will require employers with 15 or more employees to include salary ranges in job postings. This should make it easier for potential applicants to know what they can expect to be paid and could help reduce pay gaps that have been seen in the past between men and women.
Lastly, there are new laws that address important consumer issues and new laws that affect how corporations must do business in the state. For instance, a recently passed law prohibits stores in the state from charging more for products marketed to men than they do to women. This is known as the “pink tax.” The legislation is aimed at increasing gender equality and reducing what some describe as discriminatory pricing practices.
The trend toward new law will continue as the legal industry changes to more closely resemble its corporate customers and society at large. This will require a paradigm shift from provider-centric to customer-centric. That will require fit-for-purpose technology and multidisciplinary teams of “legal techies” and other allied professionals who are creative, tech and data-proficient, empathetic and innovative. It will also require a new culture that values collaboration over competition, self-congratulation and profit preservation. It will demand a focus on customer impact and high net promoter scores and will require a more holistically diverse and inclusive workforce across cognitive, demographic, cultural and experiential dimensions.