And lastly, mixed into this, you also have the generational change issue. There’s the generation where they just worked through, often with one or two employers and, at the other end of the market, people who are wanting a different employment relationship or wanting to work more flexibly, including at home.
With all these changes and different models, there are lots of interesting challenges, especially as legal businesses are essentially knowledge businesses. For example, how do you maintain communication and share knowledge between all the people in the organisation if some team members are working somewhere else for a defined period of time, or are short-term contractors? In that sense, there is some dislocation in the team.
Also, there is then the practical question of what you do if a client wants to see the lawyer with whom they are working, and how that impacts on new business models. At the moment, the client usually expects to go to an office and meet their lawyer at some point in the matter. That’s an immediate challenge to the new models where the aim is to save costs by having remote workers, and either no office or a smaller office.
It’s a big question whether there is anything in between those two models, a sort of ‘middle way’, and what that might look like: somewhere between the huge traditional law firm – and many are getting bigger with consolidation continuing in the sector – and one with the lawyers working at home, because that is where they want to work.
I'm not sure I know the answer to what will come in between, but I am absolutely sure that the market will drive the solution, because I think the market, and clients in particular, are now getting much more used to using professionals from different sources. Even though for certain, complex matters clients do automatically default to the large law firm from a risk perspective, they seem to me to be remarkably more flexible than they were in terms of using different professionals in different ways.
And also there is automation and ‘AI.’ How will that affect the future employment models and opportunities for lawyers? Some Law Society research found that there will be a loss of six to seven thousand legal services jobs from automation – but it also found that by 2038, although the employment of lawyers will be less, there will be escalating demand for legal services. So how is that demand going to be satisfied, and which of the models that we’ve spoken about already will provide that support? My conclusion is that I don't think you'll ever do away with human lawyers – but how you use them, and where you use them, is the question.