The latest person to share their views in our 2020 blog is Jordan Furlong. Jordan, in typically understated fashion, describes himself as “a leading analyst of the global legal market and forecaster of its future development.” He is so much more. Drawing on his decade as the editor of three Canadian legal periodicals, and his blogging at Law21: Dispatches From a Legal Profession On The Brink, Jordan combines insider knowledge with journalistic detachment to develop and share an understanding of the future of the practice of law. We are thrilled he has agreed to serve as a guest prognosticator for our 2020 series.
Interview with Jordan Furlong
Legal Market Analyst and Forecaster
Jordan Furlong is an internationally recognized consultant and legal market analyst who forecasts the impact of changing market conditions on lawyers and law firms. He has addressed audiences throughout Canada, the U.S., Great Britain, Europe and Australia over the past several years, including law firms, state bars, courts, law schools, and numerous legal associations. Jordan is a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management and a member of the Advisory Board of the American Bar Association’s Center for Innovation. He writes regularly about the changing legal market at law21.ca.
Q: What do you predict will be the two biggest changes in the legal profession as of 2025 and why?
I think that many traditional elements of legal services regulation will have changed, thanks primarily to the task force currently studying the issue at the State Bar of California. The State Bar, newly reconstituted as a purely regulatory body, was given a pretty radical commissioning document earlier this year in the form of a Prof. Bill Henderson report and an extremely wide ambit to consider virtually every aspect of legal services regulation. I’d be surprised if the task force didn’t come back with recommendations relating to a range of areas, including the non-lawyer provision of legal services, non-lawyer ownership of law firms, and fee-splitting with non-lawyers. Any one of these would constitute an earthquake in legal regulation in the US and worldwide.
Partly as a result of these potential developments, I think the second change will be a true explosion on the supply side of the legal market, as myriad technology-based providers emerge in the following years. A number of these new providers, to be clear, will be low-quality and even exploitative, and there’ll be horror stories of victimized clients. But in the long run, the better players will succeed and get real traction, and we’ll have moved much closer to a truly competitive and accessible market for legal services.
Q: What should be the biggest change as of 2025 but won’t be?
A true shift in legal services buying patterns among corporate clients, marked by a willingness if not eagerness to sample emerging players and technologies in the legal sector, would be great. But this probably won’t happen, partly because in-house lawyers seem to be even more risk-averse than law firm lawyers, and partly because traditional law firm providers will have adopted and adapted just enough innovative features of the new players to remain competitive in terms of pricing and products while not having to make radical changes to their business model. The in-house lawyers will be content to bring back these innovations and their cost savings as trophies to their bosses, allowing everyone to postpone, for a little while longer, the day of reckoning for an incredibly inefficient corporate legal market.
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?
A web-based service, funded and operated by a combination of government and private foundations, that provides impeccable and accessible information about people’s everyday legal issues and needs (featuring a chatbot that answers individuals’ basic questions about their legal rights and responsibilities), together with a free or low-cost legal document generator (somewhat akin to LegalZoom, which perhaps will be bought and folded into this venture) that can generate wills, leases, settlement agreements, contracts, and other basic legal materials. The private sector alone won’t come up with this, because there’s simply not enough profit to be made to satisfy venture capitalists and hedge funds. It will have to be a public venture, as it ought to be anyway. True access to justice hinges on something like this coming into the world.
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?
Do not, under any circumstances, use that time machine to travel to the past. It really didn’t go well
“In the long run, the better players will succeed and get real traction, and we’ll have moved much closer to a truly competitive and accessible market for legal services.”