This post originally appeared on Law Practice Today.
Consultants like me, who spend a lot of time thinking about and strategizing for the future of law, often get carried away talking in broad-brush terms about the changes we see coming. Understanding the big picture is certainly important, but practitioners often find it more helpful to hear specific things that other attorneys are doing differently today to prepare for that future.
This post first appeared on Hire an Esquire.
A year or so ago, I wrote a post for Hire an Esquire about leaving Big Law after having my first child. I observed that the billable-hour model is unworkable for many parents, and I resolved to redesign the Big Law business model in my new role as a legal designer.
What I’ve come to realize, however, is that the challenges I spoke of are more widespread than Big Law, and have many different causes—not just the billable hour. Solo and small-firm attorneys often struggle financially because they were never taught the business side of running a practice in law school. And many attorneys at mid- and large-size firms want to start their own practice—not to escape the billable hour, but to have a sense of purpose and autonomy—yet they have no idea how to leave.
I was interviewed recently for the Plain Language Academy’s PlainView interview series. In the video, I chat with Kate Harrison Whiteside about the similarities between plain language and legal design.
Last month a federal judge fined a law firm $1,048.09 for filing a document with the wrong line spacing. The story made the legal-news circuit, but was not covered widely. I imagine that if people on the street were told about it, their reactions might range from What on earth? to Lawyers will be lawyers ....
Stories like this disappoint me because everyone takes away the wrong message. In this case, the rule that the law firm broke is outdated and silly. And the law firm’s skirting of the rule was inappropriate and foolish. But what worries me most is that other lawyers who hear this story will be afraid to experiment with the formatting of their own briefs for fear of a similar rebuke. And if lawyers aren’t willing to push back on these silly formatting rules (in a principled way, unlike the firm in this story), then it will be even harder to improve the typography and readability of court documents, which I believe is crucial for our society.