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Three major trends credited with transforming the legal industry, and thoughts from the law department side

Bill Henderson, Director of the Center on the Global Legal Profession and a Professor of Law at Maurer School of Law, co-authored an article in the ABA J., July 2011 at 41. The authors credit three interconnected forces with testing and stressing the legal market. None of them fit from the law department side.

“1. More sophisticated clients armed with more information and greater power to rein in costs.” The collective managerial nous of general counsel in the United States has risen in the past decade, including because more information pertinent to management has become available and with lower access costs. Whether this translates into dramatic internal changes or buyers’ leverage, however, is unclear

“2. A globalized economy, which increases the complexity of legal work while exposing U.S. lawyers to greater competition.” The overall impact on lawyers in US companies of increased global trade is unclear. For some law departments, worldwide trade and laws dominate, but for most that is peripheral. Exports have accounted for only about 10-13 percent of gross domestic product in the past few years and less than that from the massive services sector. More competition from providers of legal services around the world, such as the giant UK law firms or LPOS, can only benefit law departments.

“3. Powerful information technology that can automate or replace many of the traditional billable functions performed by lawyers.” This claim is not credible. Search technology has improved and e-discovery seems to be moving toward first-stage automated review, but what corporate lawyers do day-in and day out has not yielded to software in the slightest.