Here is a Five by Five contribution from Ann M. Byrne, author of the Quid Pro Quo blog.
1. Rambo lawyering is out; civility is in.
Let the law be known as the profession where lawyers can be vigorous advocates and go out of their way to respectful and considerate to others. Lawyers would promptly return calls. Lawyers would keep their clients fully informed and encourage them to promptly and completely respond to valid discovery requests. Lawyers would adhere fully to the spirit and the letter of the court rules and rules of professional responsibility. Lawyers would cheerfully and graciously share tips, forms, best practices, and other information with other lawyers.
2. Lawyers and the law would embrace technology and new ways of doing things.
Many others have spoken far more eloquently than I could about technology and its role in the practice of law. I came to the legal profession from another career and had used computers intensively for years. I was astonished to see that only the secretaries had computers. I was amazed that the lawyers touched only the paper files and routinely misplaced their contents. I was stunned to see the index cards for checking conflicts and looking up case law. I could not understand how these people functioned. Everywhere I looked, people were drowning in paper. Things have improved some over the years I've been in practice. Yet, even today when I read the statistics on the number of lawyers who do not use any case management software, I am shocked.
Lawyers say they don't have time to learn how to use a computer, a computer program or a feature of a program. Lawyers also say that the systems they use work quite well and that they see no need to change they way they do things. I am reminded of the industries that saw no need to change how they did business and which are no longer in business today.
Lawyers have little incentive to be efficient, especially if they work on a billable hour model. Other billing models haven't convinced me, yet. Any way, very little of the practice of law is based on what makes sense or is efficient. The whole system needs to be revised and made more efficient and more modern. There are some bright spots of change on the horizon, which is encouraging.
The ability to successfully implement technology in the practice of law would, in my ideal world, be as highly valued as the ability to successfully try a case or the ability to write a cogent brief or the ability bring in clients. Lawyers and law firms would recognize that it takes many different abilities and skills to be successful in the practice of law. Each of those abilities and skills would be valued and considered when compensation and promotion decisions are made.
3. Lawyers and law firms would make a commitment to revamp the practice law; then execute their plans.
Staff would be included and will be valued participants in the process. Everyone would look high and low for all the things that we have always done that don't need to be done and can safely be omitted. Then we would stop doing them. We would ask your clients which of the things you do for them that they don't need, don't want, or don't find helpful. Then we would stop doing them. We'd ask clients what things we could do for them that would be more helpful to them. Then we'd look for ways to do them and we would start doing them. Then we'd look for inefficiency and waste. We'd figure out how to get rid of it. Then we'd eliminate it.
If we've been hankering to try something, we'd go ahead and give it a whirl. When we find the right situation, we'd make the time to get it done. Then we'd do it. We'd expect some things to not work out and we'd value what we learned from the attempt. We'd share what we learned, our successes and our misses. We'd make this revamping an on-going process until we had completely revised our practices, our courts, and our profession.
4. Lawyers and law firms would institute a sabbatical program for lawyers, perhaps along the lines of the MacArthur Fellowship, funded by lawyers and law firms for the benefit of the profession.
Everybody needs a break or a change of pace at some point in their careers. Why not allow lawyers to go work for a limited time to improve access to justice, to develop e-lawyering programs, to do pro bono work in an entirely different area of law, to help reinvent local, state, or federal government, to work on projects for courts, or to undertake some other worthwhile project. There are literally thousands of things that need to be done. Lawyers are wonderful problem solvers. Let's figure out a way to tackle some of those challenges and get them resolved! What a great way to recharge our batteries and get a new perspective.
5. There will be laughter in law offices.
Most of lawyers I know have wonderful senses of humor and love the work they do. They see the humor in a funny situation and their peals of laughter are an elixir. May each of us be blessed with at least one good belly laugh a day. You just feel great after a good laugh. Have one along with your apple every day!