The legal profession is well overdue for not just a diversity makeover, but an overhaul, and BigLaw has long been aware of this. Yet despite the influx of graduates from a larger cross-section of society over the last few decades, and the diversity programs and initiatives championed by these firms, the profession is still marked by its white, male, middle class history and based on the ideal of a worker freed from domestic responsibilities who has the support of a partner. It is exceedingly difficult to succeed if you do not fall into that privileged group.
NewLaw represents a growing number of legal services providers in the market and this gives lawyers a compelling alternative to the traditional firm and in-house models that sadly come with – what remains – a socially closed and conservative culture.
The NewLaw business model is not based on billable time targets and a skewed hierarchical partnership structure with its attendant negative pressures on young lawyers. A NewLaw company, due to its structure and desire to be more flexible and accessible for clients, is generally more open to embracing diversity and as such, in a greater position to enjoy the fruits of those values – both on the company level as well as that of the individual lawyer.
The development of legal software has highlighted the subjective nature of legal practice and equips savvy practitioners with the tools to work more accurately and efficiently. Legal services buyers see this and are less and less prepared to pay a premium for a name. They want their legal needs met swiftly, accurately and at a reasonable, transparent price. NewLaw is answering the call and needs lawyers who can do a good job, not just the ones who satisfy a circular set of selection criteria that has more to do with cultural homogeneity than relevant skills.
In the wake of International Women’s Day, it’s fitting to note the inherent tax on women who wish to pursue a family life and a legal career. A NewLaw company can open up choices beyond an unrealistic part time role or a full time, office-bound one. By enabling legal consultants to do work from wherever they have access to a computer and an internet connection, NewLaw can also help to unshackle women.
NewLaw is on the rise, competing with the established firms for interesting, complex work. It has the opportunity to rewrite the rules of the game in a powerfully positive way, by making the law work environment a more open and collaborative one and by valuing and engaging the diversity of talent available.
This post was originally published on the KorumForum.