3 Ways Millennials Are Disrupting the Legal Industry

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By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on March 15, 2016 3:58 PM

Lawyers have a bad reputation for being stuck in the past. Compared to other professionals, lawyers do not take well to technological changes.

That's problematic because we're living in a time when technological advancements are drastically changing communication and professional services. Science historian James Burke reminds us: by the time you learn and understand something, it's already obsolete. And millennial lawyers are right on that razor edge. Let's look at a few simple ways young lawyers are disrupting this industry.

1. Millennials Let Technology Do the Heavy Lifting

Technology is there to enable more efficient working. Ideally, this means more free time, but in reality, this means cramming in more work.

One case in point. At this stage, it is almost inexcusable for law firms not to utilize Optical Character Recognition technology. With a good OCR program, you can get a computer to find at least most occurrences of a single word when you review a very complex document. This tool is invaluable when trying to sift through boxes and boxes of physical discovery. Why would you get a handful of interns to do that work when you could just as easily have a computer to do the work for you?

In general, this is okay for older attorneys who are staring retirement right in the face. But the truth is that younger attorneys are grabbing more market share and serving more clients faster and cheaper. In our opinion, larger attorneys can get away without learning new technology because many of them enjoy equity partner status at large firms. In other words, their incomes are basically subsidized by younger attorneys who can do things more efficiently than them.

2. Millennials Are Foregoing the Billable Hour

Unlike their older predecessors, millennials take advantage of the fact that many tasks performed by the lawyer are mundane and repeatable with general consistency. For example, California employs the Judicial Council Forms which allow potential litigants to begin a lawsuit using formally recognized forms. Other jurisdictions still require complaints on pleading paper. Streamlining the process using fillable forms on a computer makes the whole process cheaper and less prone to human error.

But even if an attorney were forced to use pleading paper, much of that can be prefilled using templates. In fact, this form of digital savvy has already been in use for decades, it's just that the newest programs allow you access and organize your forms much more easily. Some programs even update the relevant case-law for you. Again, a lot of a lawyer's work is mundane busy-work -- but it must be done.

In the past, lawyers used to cut their teeth on this time-consuming slag because it was a way that one could -- in good faith -- charge his client for time spent completing a task. Now, tech-literate lawyers can lower the prices of tasks to the point that they can almost do away with billable hours and charge flatter if not flat fees.

3. Millennials Are Taking the Snootiness out of Law

The law used to be a very highfalutin' place. The oakwood desks, the three piece suits, the endless shelves of casebooks. Now, you're just as likely to encounter a lawyer wearing sneakers in the newer offices as you are a suit-and-tie. In fact, in some places, a pressed shirt might even seem off-putting.

You can bet that millennial lawyers are going to bring a much more democratized approach to law than their grandfathers ever would have. This is an industry that benefited from being regarded as being somewhat above the man on the street. But millennials have gradually moved away from this attitude and have shifted to make law more accessible to people giving the law a kinder, gentler -- and possibly cheaper -- feel.

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