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President's Message
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Change is the law of Life.  And those who look
only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.

--John F. Kennedy

A new year is upon us.  As I welcome each new year, my thoughts inevitably turn to changes that will occur in the months to follow.  I suspect that the same occurs for most of our members.  A new calendar year is a natural time to take stock of where things stand and, if necessary, resolve ourselves to make necessary changes.

One particular change that is on the horizon for our members is the adoption of electronic filing in our courts.  During the past year, I have attended numerous bar events and meetings where the conversation turned to how this will affect the daily practice of law.  While younger attorneys are unfazed, I can assure you that many of our more seasoned members are terrified by what they view as a fundamental change to the practice of law.  My belief is that we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Our lives are already dominated by machines.  Computers now manage nearly every aspect of a modern law practice.  Like many of our members, my career has straddled the conversion from typewriters to computerized word processing, fax machines to email and library research to Westlaw.  Simply keeping pace with emerging technology requires significant time and effort.

Last year, my office made the decision to attempt what can best be described as a technological tri-fecta:  the simultaneous updating of our bookkeeping software, our time and billing system and our firm’s website.  Researching the available options required phone calls to trusted colleagues in the bar and a great deal of hard work.  The task was intimidating to say the least. 

By comparison, the conversion to the M-DEC filing system will be a breeze.  Admittedly, I have the advantage of having e-filed in the District of Columbia, the U.S. District Court and Prince George’s County.  I can assure our more concerned members that, after you get the hang of it, you will be a convert.  The system is user-friendly, intuitive and, frankly, much more efficient than paper filing.  And, there is nothing to prevent you from stopping by the Clerk’s Office if you want to visit with the fine folks who work there.

What is truly intimidating to me is the unknown.  At many national bar conferences, a significant topic of discussion is the “Uberization” of the practice of law.  While we have all incorporated computerized record keeping, research and communication into our offices over the last two decades, the actual practice of law is, for the most part, remarkably similar to how it was practiced one hundred years ago.

The concern that we should all have as attorneys is that real change will happen, and happen quickly.  Few could have predicted that a ride-sharing app on a mobile phone would be able to take down the taxicab industry in what seems like the blink of an eye.  And I get it — with just a few taps on my phone, I am virtually assured of a clean car and a polite driver who will deliver me quickly to my destination.  I don’t even have to take out my wallet.  Amazon has, likewise, changed my life.  Instead of dreading December trips to the mall for Christmas shopping, stacks of boxes with Amazon Prime stickers magically appear on my desk.  I haven’t entered a mall in years.

The same brilliant minds who brought you Uber and Amazon are now eyeing our profession.  And there is plenty of incentive to do so.  It is predicted that, by 2018, the legal services industry will generate nearly $300 billion in revenue.  We are already familiar with companies such as Avvo which operates like an Angie’s List for lawyers.  Others such as Hire An Esquire and Priori Legal have similar models and offer “hand-curated” lawyer referrals.  These companies have changed how the public searches for an attorney but not necessarily how those services are provided once a lawyer is identified.

The real change will come from companies attempting to actually replace what lawyers do.  LegalZoom and Nolo already promise direct delivery of legal contracts and estate documents via the internet.  A mobile app called Shake offers instantaneous binding contracts via mobile devices.  Clients are more “do-it-yourself” than ever and even those who ultimately hire an attorney are far better educated in the law.  Many of the new clients I meet have already researched their issues on-line and have, at a minimum, a working understanding of the legal issues presented.

The American Bar Association, in an effort to get out in front of these developments, recently commissioned a two-year study on the future of legal services and the effects of technology, globalization and “other forces” that will transform their delivery.  Virtual lawyering and artificial intelligence are common examples along with e-discovery, alternative billing, legal outsourcing and unbundled legal services.  According to the commission’s understated conclusion, emerging technology has placed our profession at the “cusp of a disruption.”

Another major “disruption” that is currently affecting the legal industry is the effect of “millennial” attorneys on the profession.  At some conferences, I have heard significant criticisms by older attorneys regarding the headaches that they claim to have experienced in attempting to integrate millennials into their firms and bar associations.  

I can tell you, however, that my experience as bar president has been far different.  The younger members of our Association are incredibly motivated and involved.  We have created a Leadership Development Academy that is forging the next generation of bar leaders.  Members of our New Practitioners Section often provide the heavy lifting for our committees and sections and are the go-to members for our community outreach initiatives.

But here’s the really important part:  our millennial members are going to be responsible for ushering our Association — and the practice of law — into the next generation of law practice.  They have been immersed in technology for their entire lives.  Computers and technology are not feared by them; they are embraced.  Social media is how they communicate.  We need to recognize and utilize these skills to adapt and compete.

If we, as attorneys, are to avoid the fate of taxicab companies, it is the next generation of lawyers who will be instrumental in accomplishing that.  Change is coming.  That is assured.  The question is whether our profession will be able to identify and utilize emerging technologies to better deliver legal services before someone else does.

On behalf of the BAMC, “Happy New Year” and best wishes for a healthy and prosperous 2018!

Jim Mood