A. NewLaw is a mindset.
NewLaw is a mindset. It is a movement. NewLaw’s enemy is the adage: “because that’s the way we’ve always done it.”
Whether coined by Eric Chin, see Post 242, or Jordan Furlong, see Furlong, “An Incomplete Inventory of New Law,” Law21, May 13, 2014, the original definition circa 2013 was: “any model, process, or tool that represents a significantly different approach to the creation or provision of legal services than what the legal profession traditionally has employed.”
The concept has evolved to focus on the source of true power and change in the profession – people. Models, processes, and tools fail if not created, or at least embraced, by the people who power the legal system. NewLaw fails without open and informed minds. The form of output, whether a new business model, regulation, or legal technology, is secondary. In fact, strike the first part of the 2013 definition and we capture this nuance for today’s understanding.
NewLaw: A significantly different approach to the creation or provision of legal services than what the legal profession traditionally has employed.
People with a NewLaw mindset are problem-solvers who draw from all relevant and available perspectives, concepts, talents, and technologies to create and/or deliver the best legal services and solutions. This requires a baseline understanding of disciplines beyond strict legal subject matter expertise, or at least an eagerness to learn. This mindset also requires an acknowledgment that one individual is not the source of truth or answers, a vulnerable admission for many lawyers.
NewLaw has an energetic ecosystem—from forward-thinking in-house counsels, law companies, and legal technology players to law school academics and analysts—but NewLaw is not limited to new players. BigLaw, government agencies, the American Bar Association, and other organizations you might label as traditional have NewLaw growing within, both intentionally and organically due to client demands and those of rising generations. NewLaw roots have taken hold within the legal system worldwide.
Q. The newly acquainted might challenge: “If NewLaw exists throughout our legal system, then why is this the first I’m hearing about it?”
- NewLaw’s many parts cause confusion.
- NewLaw is widespread, but not yet mainstream.
NewLaw’s many parts cause confusion.
NewLaw’s open-minded and holistic approach requires awareness and familiarity with a range of disciplines and competencies, including:
Unless your day job is steeped in creating the future of the legal profession, these terms likely flash in your newsfeeds, sent or received marketing materials, and otherwise in your periphery as headlines and sound bites. The unfortunate result is that these concepts present as noise and cause confusion. In reality, they are not disparate. They are all connected and fall under the NewLaw umbrella.
Cynics who do not fully understand or appreciate the depth of these fields may brush their existence off as buzzwords, at least in legal. Allow me to emphasize: We are not in the land of buzzwords. These areas of expertise are concrete and valuable resources for the creation and provision of better legal services.
Q. How pervasive is the NewLaw mindset?
The NewLaw mindset is widespread, but not yet mainstream.
NewLaw exists globally throughout our legal systems. It is widespread. However, it exists in pockets within these systems. It is not yet mainstream. Anyone who says otherwise is doing so from a place of self-interest.
Interestingly, many mainstream people within legal departments, law firms, and other organizations actively use the products and services of NewLaw without awareness of the broader movement. They interact with a sliver of the new world, and don’t think more of it.
For example, an M&A associate using leading-edge due diligence software or a litigation associate engaging with a law company on discovery may view the interaction as a limited “thanks and have a nice day” vendor relationship. Many of these associates do not realize the history and pioneering required to power those services. They don’t realize what they are already a part of, or what’s to come.
Q. Should NewLaw be compared or contrasted to BigLaw (as done here).
No, particularly since various parts of BigLaw are embracing the NewLaw mindset. The more apt comparison is to OldLaw, loosely defined here as a mindset steeped in precedent and the way things have been done before. OldLaw is not an industry term, and this reference is not meant to introduce it as such. Instead, I mention it for the purpose of distinction: OldLaw points to tradition, NewLaw sees possibilities. BigLaw is simply a tier of law firms, and both OldLaw and NewLaw exist within them.
Q. Is NewLaw exclusively about cost?
Definitely no. Many collapse NewLaw to a conversation around cost, but this limited frame fails to reflect the fact that NewLaw is relevant and valuable from routine, repeatable tasks (think closing binders) all the way up the food chain to bet-the-company advisory and litigation matters where clients have limited financial concerns. Rather, the focus is on quality, speed, measurement, data, banding of risk, and continuous improvement. NewLaw may have origins in cost, but that is not where we are today.
NewLaw is a mindset.
NewLaw is a movement.
NewLaw is a significantly different approach to the creation or provision of legal services than what the legal profession traditionally has employed.
NewLaw Fundamentals Q&A is published on the first Wednesday of each month.