Monday, July 3, 2017

USA Today and the Glorious, Super-Interesting Future of Law

You know it's bad when USA Today has to find the right experts to correct your rampant misconceptions.

While this recent article focuses at first on the common themes of recent attention-seeking headlines - law schools closing, fewer student-marks enrolling, etc. - the meat comes halfway when writer Greg Toppo essentially hands the keys of the Lambo to Suffolk Dean Andrew M. Perlman and LegalZoon General Counsel Chas Rampenthal.

Perlman concedes initially that there may be "fewer opportunities" for lawyers in the future, but those that exist are going to be pretty damned sweet:
The upside: lawyers these days “are practicing at the top of their license, so to speak — that is, they’re doing higher-value work, which is actually a good development," he said. "It’s good for lawyers, because the work they do get is more interesting. And it’s also good for the consumers, because they aren’t having to pay for lower-value work.”
With this view, one would logically expect that Suffolk is producing the Goldilocks amount of lawyers to meet the market demand for this future interesting work.  There's no way it would recklessly pump out hundreds of kids when only twenty of them get to play with the big boys someday, right?

To think otherwise - to even think that Suffolk is willingly selling kids on job opportunities that its leadership knows aren't going to exist in 5-10 years with oppressive loans that take 25 to pay back (if!) - is to assume Perlman is assisting in a duplicitous slaughterhouse of a monstrously obvious scam.  That would be a crass thing to do, and I categorically will not do it.

Likewise, I wouldn't want to debate what, exactly, is interesting about attending mundane status hearings, writing pointless objections to poorly written discovery requests, rejecting tracked changes on the 4th draft of an asset purchase agreement because another attorney blew off a lesson or two of middle school English, receiving client calls on a Friday afternoon because the internet says something so terribly wrong one wouldn't know where to start, arguing frivolous or stupid motions because [pro se; someone's bill padding/selling value to hapless client; someone's rolling the dice with a maverick judge; opposing counsel is just plain stupid; etc.], watching a contingency case blow up two years in because the broke-ass client lied about something sort-of important, scratching one's eyeballs out because small businessman client ran three businesses and his personal bills through one LLC that he created through a scam company in Nevada, deposing a generic back injury auto accident victim for the 50th time, writing unread research memos on things your $750/hr boss should probably know if he actually earned that A- in civil procedure, showing up at a traffic court call with anything more than a cheap sport-coat hangover and the bleary smile of lifetime defeat, or any of the hundreds of other things that make law practice go go go.

I wouldn't want to discuss these things because it's self-evident that being a lawyer gives one a sense of self-actualized vivacity and power that makes Robocop look like a freckled, scrawny armed hall monitor.  Imagine drinking wine for fun and not as a coping mechanism!  Lawyering is like that.

But what happens when they finally program the sophisticated SuperLawyerBot to fully evaluate cases and controversies before they even begin?  To evaluate just compensation?  Proof beyond a reasonable doubt?

That's as dumb as talking about smartphones in the 70s, you futurist.  Put down Brave New World and Player Piano and come back to reality.  For now, there's lots of interesting lawyer work.  Tons.

Ask around.  Ask LegalZoom's top lawyer.  He agrees that too many lawyers are just being inefficient right now focusing on un-lawyer things.
...[H]e estimated that 70% to 80% of every hour billed by lawyers “probably doesn’t require a law license.” Finding new clients, wining and dining them and fretting over billing, he said, can be done by someone else. “That is not what lawyers should be spending their time doing.”
No kidding.  Stop billing your clients for these things, you inefficient private practitioners! Do some of that interesting work instead!

And once we get this technology to free up lawyers for that interesting work, WE MIGHT EVEN NEED MORE LAW SCHOOLS!
LegalZoom's Rampenthal said technology may well shrink the job market in the short term, but if costs go down, public demand for legal services will eventually rise. In the long term, he said, demand for lawyers could rebound and more law schools may open.
Hail the future!

Dean Perlman agrees that this technological disruption has more or less created a buying opportunity for the economically shrewd prospective student:
It’s actually “a great time” to go into the legal profession, he said. “From my perspective, it is an especially exciting time to be part of the legal industry, because I think it is changing more significantly and more rapidly than at any time in anyone’s memory.”
I remember a decade ago discussing Amazon with some MBA homies.  A few of them - wild masturbatory loners, really - predicted it would be the eventual end of retail.  "NO!" I said, "it's actually an especially exciting time to be a part of the retail industry, because I think it is changing more significantly and rapidly than at any time in anyone's memory."

I've been buying up Sears and Penney's stock for years.  They're not dying companies, just significantly changing ones.  It's an exciting time to be investing, if you completely disregard the rational conclusions that result from reviewing every fragment of  objective evidence.

Happy 4th of July, readers.  As you watch fireworks beautifully explode like the career dreams of a generation, please remember to make your monthly student loan debt payments.  Some of us have mistresses with expensive habits.


  1. *** Imagine drinking wine for fun and not as a coping mechanism! [Good one! No, I can't.] *** Some of us have mistresses with expensive habits.[Love the use of the plural!]****

    Epic post, LSTC, just epic!!!!

  2. Perlman's quote is a classic, although it should be "it's a grea time to apply to law school-it's never been easier to get in. And don't forget-you pay my salary, so please apply. Otherwise I'd actually have to practice law."

  3. So Suffolk has polished up its spiel to sell a dream to a new generation of suckers.

    “practicing at the top of their license" !!
    "higher-value work" !!
    "good for lawyers" !!
    "more interesting" work !!
    "a good development" !!
    "good for the consumers" !!

    Sounds like a winner! They even throw out a line to SJWs.

    Really, it plays like a carney pitch for the latest silly hoop-toss game.
    Like your shot is going to land perfectly around that big fat post with the Rolex.
    Most likely it will hit that one, bounce off, and land around one of the dozens of thin posts with the cheap little toys.
    And a lifetime of debt.