Monday, May 09, 2011

On The Future of Lawyering

Here is a rather gloomy article on the future of lawyering. I would say that while some US and UK law firms might face serious problems, the same thing is not happening in Indonesia, or rather, not happening yet. Will it someday happen? Might be, but I doubt that it will be soon.

The main issues raised in this article are among others: globalization (i.e. legal outsourcing), super expensive bills, and technology innovation that might reduce lawyers' administrative work. Compared to Indonesia, all of these issues are not relevant.

There is no incentive in Indonesia to do a legal outsourcing, especially to India, simply because the costs might be very similar. Expensive bills might be a case, but for most of foreign and local clients, Indonesian firm bills are still cheaper compared to international law firms (in terms of sophisticated projects) and surely Indonesian firms have a better understanding about Indonesian law in any case. Technological innovation? Yes it will help lawyer's job. But can it replace the lawyers? I really doubt it. It would be foolish to think that technology will replace lawyers completely or reduce their existence significantly in the future.

In my opinion, the legal market in Indonesia is strong. There are still a lot of works to do and there are also many types of clients and law firms. In this case, specialization is very important, either you want to focus on administrative tasks or chase the bigger fish and work on sophisticated transactions. In fact, even simple transactions need the expertise of lawyers. I've seen too many examples of poorly drafted contracts which will open an endless debate between the parties whenever their relationship goes sour, and yet, the transactions are not even that complicated.

One thing to remember though, while Indonesian lawyers might enjoy the current strong legal market, we should always remember that business always evolves. In the end the practice of lawyers will need to go with the applicable market practice and law firms must always be ready for such changes. As the law has evolved for thousands of years, lawyers should also do the same. That's why it is important to build an institution, a firm that will live on even when all of its founding partners have died or left the firm, a firm that can produce the next generation that will maintain the stability of the firm, generate new clients and income, and adapt to the ever changing world. Can Indonesian lawyers do this? Time will tell.

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