Our encounters with the law occur at key occasions in our lives. Even when the moment is a happy one like the founding of a new business, these encounters can be fraught with uncertainty and fear. Legal actions paralyze sound strategy and creative thinking on both the individual and institutional level, and this happens even when clients think they’re going to win.
Some lawyers already understand this. We call the special quality that helps them do it empathy or emotional intelligence. But the firm of the future will exhibit this quality on an institutional level, and they won’t do it because all their associates have such good hearts. It will be accomplished with radically improved data and design.
In 2023, improved computational power as well as intense pressure from consumers will push firms to consider every legal action within a comprehensive model of the client’s experience. As more of law’s technical tasks are automated, lawyers’ role as counselors guiding clients through these experiences will expand. The end result will be a repackaging of legal experience into products and services today’s market might not recognize. Clients won’t think of firms as the people they call in a crisis, but as organizations that consistently help them become better and better.
There is already an interest in using data internally to measure associates’ effectiveness and to improve efficiency within the firm. Soon this information will be incorporated into the actual advice firms offer to the market. Imagine showing clients a graph that details, month by month, the probability that an adversary will settle. It will be possible when a new breed of lawyers combine the best technical tools with business savvy and quantitative reasoning.
Now consider what will happen when this kind of information is combined with similarly sophisticated data on a firm’s client base. Lawyers will help clients imagine a story weaved from all the data generated by their previous transactions. For example, they could sketch plausible scenarios describing how long a company will need to return to profitability after a difficult case, as well as how they might get there. Even losses in court would be less bitter — think about how different clients’ experience will be if they know in advance that there is a 30 percent chance they will lose the case, that it will likely cost them X amount of money, that it normally takes Y months to rebound, and so on.
As the above example suggests, what ultimately emerges from all of this user modeling is an entirely new way of packaging the experience of legal services. When clients think of important legal matters — a big merger, an industrial accident, a messy divorce — they don’t primarily think about what happens in court. The legal aspect of their experience is just a tiny part of what’s happening. But it is also an essential one, which makes the law firm a natural place to package any number of services that could help them.
In the end, the service we currently think of as legal representation may become a completely invisible part of the company’s offering. When clients think of their firms, they won’t think merely of the difficulties they experienced in court, but the new possibilities opened up in the entirety individual and institutional experience. That will be a happy change not just for clients, but for firms as well.