Our law firm implements practices that are novel to the legal industry at large but the norm in all other service industries: automated intake processes, video consultations, video depositions and trials, automated document generation, online payments, text message communication, and mandatory specialized professional development for advocacy in our practice areas.
A colleague shared this article from Forbes, COVID-19 And The Reformation of Legal Culture. It is yet another legitimate indictment of the legal industry and worth taking the time to read. A noteworthy excerpt:
... entrenched stakeholders— law firm equity partners, general counsel, tenured law school faculty, regulators, Bar Associations, and the judicial system. Their stasis is rooted in legal culture, anachronistic structural, economic, and delivery paradigms, fiefdoms, self-regulation, and hubris. The legal profession, until recently synonymous with the industry, has been acculturated to respect precedent, avoid making mistakes, and adapt to an insular, homogeneous, conformist, risk-averse, inward-focused culture that promotes the myth of its exceptionalism.
Our jurisdiction is guilty of enabling and encouraging inefficiency and increasing the cost of access to justice. Oklahoma refuses to adopt the ABA's model rule requiring attorneys to competently use relevant technology. Oklahoma was a front-runner in online access to case information, but decades later there is still no system for e-filing. Acceptance of service by email is "opt-in." While courts in neighboring states rush to implement video-technology to facilitate resolution of disputes and share their developments on Twitter, our judges say "We don't know how" and close the doors to justice.
The law schools are responsible for these problems. The cost and lack of value of the third year of law school has been recognized for years, including by a U.S. President. A U.S. Supreme Court Justice said this:
Some system of certification for trial advocates is an imperative and long overdue step.
In spite of all the bar examinations and better law schools, we are more casual about qualifying the people we allow to act as advocates in the courtroom than we are about licensing our electricians.
I have now joined those who propose that the basic legal education could well be accomplished in two years, after which more concrete and specialized legal education should begin. If the specialty is litigation, the training should be prescribed and supervised by professional advocates cooperating with professional teachers, for both are needed. The third year in school should, for those who aspire to be advocates, concentrate on what goes on in courtrooms. After the third year, those who wish to be advocates should begin a pupilage period, assisting and participating in trials directly with experienced trial lawyers.
Justice Burger delivered this speech in 1973. 1973!!! And nothing has changed. These cries are ignored -- there's too much revenue at stake for the law schools and academics who hide their heads in the sand to ignore the ramifications and consequences of their Great Lie: telling graduates that they are now completely ready. Notwithstanding this speech by the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court almost 50 years ago, it is illegal in our state for attorneys to suggest that we specialize in any particular area!
Many of the attorneys we deal with refuse to communicate by email, relying instead on faxed correspondence. Those attorneys do not understand how we do not have a fax machine and receive their faxes by email. Most have never attended an advocacy program or hands-on training of any kind after law school.
There is no excuse. At age 60, my father, a high-school educated construction worker, took a class at a local vocational school to improve his understanding and use of email and Windows. The cost was nominal, less than any CLE, and after a few weeks he finished the class with the necessary skills to navigate his laptop and iPad and the ability to communicate electronically at a high level with anyone.
The obstinance of our profession costs everyone, including those of us who see the mandate to adopt technology and best practices for our services. While we choose to accept information by email, our clients still have to pay us to send mail to those who refuse to acknowledge email. Our clients have to wait for progress in their case thanks to attorneys who refuse to mediate by video and to the judges who have disappeared into their homes as their public salaries continue to be directly-deposited into their accounts and the doors to their courtrooms are closed. The standards for discovery and trial practice are so low that we encounter and fight through bizarre, baseless positions against making initial disclosures, answering discovery and admission of evidence in every single case.
Progressives like John Morgan have been looking ahead their entire career, while most take the status quo as a given. The coronavirus pandemic has pulled the curtain back yet again and exposed the arrogance of the legal industry. Consider it an endorsement of those few who embrace efficiency and progress and a warning to the rest: Change is coming.