It’s hard to believe that we are only 10 weeks away from 2020 (and the end of our blog series). Luckily we still have time for some worthy visionaries, like Maya Markovich, to give us their predictions of life in the legal world in 2025. Maya is one of the great forces in innovation and legal tech and, as Head of Products at Dentons’ Nextlaw Labs, she has a unique vantage point for what’s coming around the corner. You don’t want to miss her answers to the “four questions.”
Interview with Maya Markovich
Head of Product, Nextlaw Labs
Q: What do you predict will be the two biggest changes in the legal profession as of 2025 and why?
We get this question a lot. As Bill Gates said, I think we overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years, and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. By 2025, the use of technology will become table stakes for much of the day-to-day of law practice–like using Westlaw or LexisNexis for legal research, which caused similar consternation due to all those billed library hours. At an industry level, I think we will see continued ascendancy of the Big 4 and consolidation of the legal profession.
Law is a fragmented market. The largest firm in the world holds 1% market share, whereas accounting’s Big 4 hold 50% (or more in some areas). As the market deregulates, the Big 4 will continue to penetrate, because they have the capital to do it, and hundreds of thousands of global employees adept at leveraging technology to serve their clients in other practice areas.
Law won’t consolidate to that extent. Rather than its current pyramid structure, with a small number of large firms at the top, a fat middle, and a base of hundreds of small to midsize firms, I think five years out we’ll see more of a barbell industry structure. We’ll be closer to a handful of firms with 20-30% of market share at the top, as they follow client panel consolidation to serve them globally. Midsize firms will likely dwindle in number, and many small, specialized firms will target specific geographies or niche areas of the law and still prosper. Law firm networks will also continue to grow–Dentons founded the Nextlaw Referral Network, and over 600 firms signed up in the first year alone. The bottom of the barbell will also include alternative legal service providers and tech-enabled basic legal services. The work isn’t going away, it’s just going to be done differently. There may be even more legal work undertaken as a result of these shifts, but technology will perform more of it. The most successful players will stay attuned to the evolving industry structure and think about getting big or getting small.
Q: What should be the biggest change as of 2025 but won’t be?
Several, but I don’t want to sound pessimistic! There’s the billable hour–everyone hates it and it’s holding back the industry. It will decline, but won’t go away entirely anytime soon because it’s so deeply woven into the fabric of the profession.
Then there’s deregulation–it’s crucial for access to justice, gaining momentum, and it’s inevitable, but lawyers are fighting it every step of the way. It will happen piecemeal and snowball, but tradition and the Bar’s mindset will take longer than five years to shake entirely.
And lastly, gender equity. In firm partner ranks, trial teams, legal departments, funding, legal tech startups–everywhere. It’s going to take longer, but hopefully not as long as closing the overall economic gender gap of 108 years. Women are leaving the profession at alarmingly high rates, and we need an urgent groundswell to focus on retention and development to unlock this unparalleled economic opportunity.
Q: If you could design something that does not exist right now that you think would be of help to you or the industry in 2025, what would it be?
An industry-standard platform that reflects the fact that legal is part of an end-to-end process, not an island unto itself. Other functional areas in business have platforms that provide a lot of the functionality needed within and across their departments, e.g., Salesforce serves marketing, ADP provides reporting for accounting, Oracle supports service delivery, etc. Right now, over 1,500 legal tech companies are playing whack-a-mole. They’re solving a specific pain point or use case in a compelling manner, which is good and natural at this point in the disruptive cycle. That said, law firms and legal departments cannot work with hundreds of new tech vendors, and we’re already starting to see some pushback. Several of our portfolio companies are in these types of discussions, and consolidation is inevitable, but if I could dream up the optimal one? A bulletproof platform that rolls up the players to address service needs across corporate functions and geographies, and enables easy and deep cross-tool data analytics. That will be a big and necessary development. We’re seeing the beginnings of this with companies like Reynen Court, and a cross-functional expanded platform will be a big step forward.
Q: If the current you could give advice to the future you about anything (doesn’t have to be law-related), what would it be?
Well, I’ll keep it somewhat law-related… please don’t worry about robots taking your job. It’s something I’ve had to dig into as it comes up frequently in my discussions about tech and law. A lot of lawyers see the push to innovative methods of legal service delivery as a threat, but you’re getting a promotion, not a pink slip, and I’m a good example of that. I’d tell myself that there’s never been a better time to be a lawyer–you don’t have to pull an all-nighter reviewing leases to find that one assignment clause any more (true story). Find tools and processes that enable you to focus on higher value work, strategic and creative thinking, and issues that demand insight and EQ. That’s not just true for law, these are the most professionally fulfilling aspects of any profession. There are new career paths and options for law school graduates who embrace technology, multi-functional roles that will allow for greater creativity, engagement, collaboration, and innovative thinking than the lawyers of yesteryear could ever dream of.
I’d also remind myself to continue to practice non-judgment and strive to keep learning. Seek out and incorporate diverse perspectives in everything you do, every challenge you try to solve, every situation you find yourself in. You, the law, and the world will be better for it.
“A lot of lawyers see the push to innovative methods of legal service delivery as a threat, but you’re getting a promotion, not a pink slip, and I’m a good example of that.”