North America: The Next Emerging Market for Legal Services

I have been following an interesting blog and twitter feed (@LawSync) prepared by LawSync out of Sheffield Hallam University. LawSync has put the “wow” back into law school and is a project of that university’s Department of Law, Criminology, and Community Justice. According to its website:

The name of this project reflects our desire to see a better synchronisation between law as an academic discipline and professional practice, the expectations both of legal professionals and users of legal services, and regulatory influences. Law schools, law students, and legal professionals need to keep in sync with market needs and consumer expectations. The legal services market, and those who work within it, are undergoing great change thanks to a combination of forces- regulation, technology, and changing consumer expectations. As part of preparing students for employment, the LawSync project is looking at these forces and what they mean for law students and legal professionals, and how its teaching can prepare them for the demands of the new marketplace.

LawSync has not only demonstrated an impressive command of the changing legal landscape but also the thoughtfulness to see legal education as encompassing much more than case law.

Recently LawSync blogged about what it sees as “emerging markets” in legal services within economically “developed” jurisdictions. Often commentators rely on being provocative to get their message of change across – and I admit to having used those tactics in the past – but LawSync’s characterisation of the changes we are seeing in the delivery of legal services as an “emerging market”, rather than the “end of the world”, is more accurate – as well as a softer, more palatable approach to promoting change.

As LawSync sees it, “the entire (existing and potential) market in legal services in the UK and similar so-called developed jurisdictions is…effectively an emerging market….. Existing and future legal service providers … in the UK and in similar jurisdictions… are players and stakeholders in what will likely become a radically different market place/commercial sector. In this sense, everything changes, all bets are off, all is ‘emerging’.

What does this mean for North America?

First, it means that it is folly to view our legal marketplace as a mature or fully developed one. Compared to our UK cousins, the North American legal industry is more akin to a “less-developed” market than an “emerging” one.

Second, like successful emerging markets in the economic development sense, smart players will learn from what’s happening around the world and adapt those processes for better efficiency and greater profit.

And the sooner we see ourselves as a future emerging market the better, because legal players around the world are certainly not waiting for us to change. Riverview Law has recently landed in New York City and is looking to making inroads in Asia. The clock is ticking louder each day.


  1. Don’t underestimate the inertia caused by the fragmentation of regulatory authority in federal states. The US market rests on the combination of local state bars and the very conservative tendencies of state supreme courts which often view reform askance. While Anthony Davis argues for federal regulation, that battle won’t be settled in our lifetimes.

    Canada is less fragmented and FLSC initiatives like the National Mobility Protocol show that market opening activities are possible.

    But Clementi and Legal Services Act type reforms would require very high levels of policy coordination and political consensus. Only the most serious crisis of denied access to justice could move us away from the status quo.

  2. Increasingly, unbundled legal services will be offered for struggling and cash-strapped litigation clients throughout Canada. LawPro, however, is in the midst of seeking changes to the Law Society rules that govern the provision of affordable legal services through unbundling. As always, access to justice is the paramount concern.