Trendspotting – Are You Ready?

As an owner in a legal search practice, a number of legal recruiting articles come across my screen on a daily basis. It occurs to me that anyone could get lost in the quagmire of information on what’s hot, what’s new, what practice areas should I be developing, and what’s the future of my industry. So how do you determine what, who, when and where to follow? How do you assess what’s enduring and what’s “just a passing trend”?

For any lawyer, it is important to be able to cull out the noise from what I call “chatter in the channel.” Here’s a process to follow to help you determine how the information you receive may be relevant and how it may apply to your profession or industry.

What is a trend and how does it affect the legal profession? A trend is a change that occurs in your profession that could be temporary, long-term or permanent.

The profession of lawyer is being impacted by a number of trends including artificial intelligence and other disruptive technology, competition from other service providers including accounting firms, and the growth of legal operations and non-lawyer professionals assuming responsibility for tasks previously handled by lawyers. How do you know which trends to embrace and which ones to maintain reservations about?  There is no substitute for critical thought and critical discourse. Challenge assumptions that others have about short- and long-term trends. Speak with colleagues and mentors and solicit input. Attend seminars and participate in webinars. What are traditional legal scholars saying? Read what legal futurists such as Richard Susskind and Jordan Furlong are saying about trends. Harness some of the complex problem-solving competencies that you reserve for clients toward trend spotting. What is an industry trend and how does it affect my career? Your industry is separate and different from your profession unless you are a lawyer working in a law firm. If you are a lawyer working in a law firm, your profession is legal, and your industry is legal. If you are working as in-house counsel, you are most likely working in a different industry from your profession. For example, you could be a practicing attorney in consumer products, financial services, or life sciences all of which are industries separate from your profession.

Trendspotting in your industry may also have a significant impact on your career growth. As an attorney in the legal profession, you may be at the top of your game however if you are working in the media industry  you are in an industry that is in a state of change and as a result, your career growth, career advancement, or career opportunities could be limited.

It is important then to be informed about trends impacting not just your profession of lawyer but your industry as well. So where do you find information?

Examples of professional resources could be legal periodicals such as Law Journals or legal industry publications, professional associations, law school alumni associations, and peers in and around the legal profession. Speaking to professionals serving the legal community is an excellent source of information. Those professionals may see the trends impacting your profession more quickly and objectively.

Examples of industry resources could be industry associations, industry publications, speaking opportunities regarding your industry (you will be with other industry experts and will have the benefit of their insight and knowledge).

Examples of adapting to change resources, Dr. Larry Richard, specializes in understanding the “LawyerBrain” and provides articles and podcasts on adapting to change specifically for lawyers. As he summarizes, “It’s little surprise that lawyers, even among other professionals, are not wholly accepting of change, especially when it comes in the form of a large wave. Reaction to the current level of dramatic change in the legal industry can manifest itself in higher levels of anxiety and, worse yet for lawyers, a consuming focus on threats rather than opportunities.”

Reading, listening, participating in professional and industry associations, conversing with peers, will help keep you relevant, current, and will increase your ability to spot trends, hopefully, before they impact you directly. The more advance notice you have, the more options and hopefully opportunities you can create to keep your career moving forward. And if you find yourself resisting change, adopt some of Dr. Larry Richard’s strategies on adapting to change.


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