The Role of the Lawyer: A Growing Focus on Contract Management
The legal profession faces dynamic change. Over the next few years, the role of the lawyer is going to look very different from today.
In many respects, the legal profession has managed to resist the transformation affecting other professions for a remarkably long time. The impacts of technology on fields such as medicine or engineering have been far more dramatic. Yet as I wrote in my previous blog, much of the basic work of a lawyer can now be undertaken far cheaper and on an outsourced basis. forcing a re-think of many services. Compound that with demands for increasingly global intelligence plus the general disquiet over the level of fees and salaries, and you have irresistible pressure for change.
This pressure seems to be reflected in the announcement last week by US law-firm Weil, Gotshal and Manges (one of the top 20 in the US) that it is eliminating many of its junior lawyers and support staff and cutting pay for ‘under-performing partners’.
Among the many shifts that appear to be on the cards for the legal profession is the rapid erosion of the partner-model law firm and also increased integration with other professions, such as accountants, to offer a more coherent business service. But with so many law students still pouring out of universities and law schools, other changes appear inevitable. One of these is the likely move by many trained lawyers into the field of contract and commercial management – which is for many businesses a growing area of recruitment.
Today, legal training does not equip lawyers for this role, though of course their knowledge has some direct application. And since few universities produce qualified contract or commercial graduates, it is a natural home for a lawyer. Indeed, with contract management increasingly reporting to the in-house law department, there is a natural tendency to recruit qualified lawyers to the role.
In addition, law schools are waking up to the fact that they must expand their body of training and equip graduates to enter the world of business. With entry level jobs disappearing at an alarming rate, the need for action is urgent.
For IACCM, a consequence has been rapid growth of interest in our work from both law firms and law schools. Research, case studies and the underlying ‘body of knowledge’ that we have developed are suddenly very relevant for both new course content and new chargeable services. There is also increased uptake of our Managed Learning and certification program as lawyers seek a fast-path route to expanding their commercial competence.
Interesting trends indeed; but perhaps somewhat frightening for the largely unqualified, uncertified body of contract and commercial managers currently in business. Suddenly they face a whole new breed of competitors for their jobs.