This article is written by Ramanuj Mukherjee, CEO, LawSikho.
Until 2007 Nokia dominated the sales of mobile phones across the globe. When Steve Jobs made an insanely amazing gadget called an iPhone which did not have a keyboard and was an all-touch gadget, the market and the public went into euphoria.
“Wow, there’s this beautiful looking iPhone that also offers apps you can buy from its AppStore! I mean, how crazy is it?!!?”
Nokia’s demise is a prime example of what other industries can learn from. Businesses need to react to innovation coming from outside the industry. Even a company that was on top and dominating its market was surprisingly vulnerable and fell from the top to bottom in no time.
Not only Nokia, but Blackberry also met the same fate around the same time.
The technology industry has accepted that constant innovation is the only way to stay relevant.
But what about us? Do we also need to innovate, learn, strive continuously to do well and stay relevant in our own fields?
It would appear so. The internet and social media have unleashed a global phenomenon. If you think your job is secure and you are safe, you may discover to your surprise that some kid with a computer in some corner of the globe has stolen your lunch.
There was a time when once you made a reputation in a certain court or an area of practice you could bank on it for the rest of your life. Is it still that way? If it is, is that going to change in the years to come?
Lawyers for a long time thought that they are insulated from this change, but no more. There are winds of change that started as a surprising breeze and is now about to turn into the perfect storm.
Three major trends we have observed and predict the intensification of in 2020 are as follows.
There is a lot more money in emerging areas rather than old mainstays
Lawyers always made money in India with property matters, criminal cases, banking matters, tax, company law and corporate transactions. However, new areas like technology law, media law, legal services for startups, insolvency, VC transactions, data protection and cybersecurity laws, energy law, environmental law etc have arrived as new areas of work with a lot of potential and more money.
Let me use an example. Employment law was never considered lucrative in India. However, it is rapidly becoming a money-spinner given new sensitive client concerns like sexual harassment law, foreign employee issues, employment visa, data protection or breach of privacy by employees, ESOP and attrition management.
On the other hand, employees are increasingly suing their employers for failure to treat fairly. The number of cases for breach of agreement, failure to furnish an experience letter, delay in payment of salary, and wrongful termination is on the rise as Indian employees are upwardly mobile and now have the information, education, and resources necessary to engage in litigation.
As the Indian economy inexorably marches from mostly unorganized sector to more and more formal businesses, employment agreements are being drafted, enforced and brought up in negotiations. The government has also reformed labor laws to a great extent, and businesses are still trying to understand the full impact of these laws.
In practice areas that have existed for the last 50 years or more and were considered attractive, there are too many legal service providers, and there are always many new lawyers willing to drive prices down. While the top lawyers in those areas are still able to charge a premium, the lawyers in the middle are finding it hard to hold steady. It is very hard, for this reason, to go and build a practice in a district court or a High Court compared to an NCLT or REAT.
Younger lawyers have done well before forums like COMPAT, TDSAT, APTEL while they have not made much of a dent in High Court or Supreme Court practice.
New practice niches with very few lawyers offer opportunities and more margin because it is harder to find a competent lawyer in these niches.
If you are trying to build your career strategy today, it is fine to opt for the perennial favorites, but do take into account emerging areas too.
Definition of legal services is changing
There was a time when good legal services only meant the lawyer going to a court and winning the case, or just closing a deal as a corporate lawyer.
Lawyers only focused on the core part of legal work and did not consider customer services or ease of the customer in accessing their services or marketing or technological interventions to be part of their work.
Many lawyers relied on information asymmetry and their exclusive license to appear before the court to get clients. Unfortunately, as there are way too many lawyers out their today, and information about every lawyer is widely available on the internet, legal knowledge alone does not entitle a lawyer to charge money from clients.
They have to provide a good client experience, which goes much beyond mere doing of legal work. Of course, competence in doing legal work is still the sine qua non, but other areas of business-specific expertise of lawyers are becoming very valuable too.
A relationship based on trust and convenience has to be built up with potential clients and existing clients have to be supported in a way that they want to come back.
There are now law firms that are hiring consultants for client experience design, which includes the experience of the client from the moment they reach out over a call or email or step in through the door and meet the receptionist.
Many clients are fed up with chasing their lawyer for updates about hearing etc, whereas some lawyers are introducing automated CRM systems that send regular updates automatically to clients and remind them of important dates.
Imagine the vast difference in the experience of the client, and tell me, which lawyer would the client prefer to work with?
Increasingly, the clients are taking the center stage in legal practice because a new breed of young lawyers and law firms have realized that quality of client experience is a great differentiator and major success trigger.
Similarly, lawyers with a flair for educating their clients and engaging with the public are building stronger brands. Law firm marketing has become a profession as lawyers are specializing in it, while even individual lawyers have come to realize the importance of marketing and are trying to improve at it.
Most importantly, technological disruption and reimagination of the legal service is reaching a stage of intensity where it is extremely hard to ignore. Lawyers who are adopting technology better are miles ahead of the rest. Being a lawyer does not mean just the ability to draft legal documents, do legal research and appear before judges – it means a lot more today.
While some lawyers see opportunity in it, others used to the old ways are positively threatened by it.
Younger lawyers will find it easier while older lawyers have it harder
Young lawyers had it hard in the legal profession so far, and the older lawyers with more experience had an upper hand. However, technology has changed that equation a great deal. Lawyers who grew up using the internet are using new technology to build their brand, find clients, learn new skills, automate their work and deliver better customer experience while many older lawyers are at a complete loss about what is going on.
Some of the old guards often try to block the young lawyers in the name of professional rules, but so far the juggernaut has not been slowed down at all and it is unlikely to stop. Creative lawyers always find various ways around the rules.
One major reason why younger lawyers took a long time to get anywhere in the legal profession was that they were at the mercy of senior lawyers to learn any practical skills. Since they could not learn the work in any other way, or faster, they could not venture out on their own early in their career.
Even legal books were priced so prohibitively that they could not afford their own law books initially. Buying a set of SCC or AIR on your own required to save up money over the years for most young lawyers and a chamber that could accommodate all such books.
The situation is not like that anymore given the wide availability of legal resources online, and advent of LawSikho where they can learn practical legal skills online in a far more systematic way.
How can we help you to benefit from these trends?
LawSikho courses have been created keeping these trends in mind.
We teach courses that are old favorites while creating courses that can get you inroads into emerging areas with maximum opportunities.
Our assignments and lessons are planned in such a way that you learn actual skills that employers and clients are happy to pay for.
We teach you 2 specific skills every week that a client will pay at least 10k or more if an individual lawyer was to do the work.
Imagine learning 100 such practical skills, chosen for their immediate relevance and demand in the market, every year. How can that help you to expand your area of practice and influence as a lawyer?
Our students rapidly increase their income, get promoted faster and land coveted job offers all the time.
If you want to know how we do this, you can try out any of our premium courses risk-free (below are a few in which enrollment is currently open) :
Diploma in M&A, Institutional Finance and Investment Laws (PE and VC transactions)
Diploma in Intellectual Property, Media and Entertainment Laws
EXECUTIVE CERTIFICATE COURSES
Certificate Course in Advanced Criminal Litigation & Trial Advocacy
Certificate Course in Real Estate Laws
Certificate Course in Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code
Certificate Course in Media and Entertainment Law: Contracts, Licensing and Regulations
Certificate Course in Legal Practice Development and Management
Students of Lawsikho courses regularly produce writing assignments and work on practical exercises as a part of their coursework and develop themselves in real-life practical skill.
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