Sanjay Kamlani is a proud alum of Penn Law’s Class of 1994. He is the co-founder and Managing Director of the 1991 Group, a legal industry advisory, software development and technology business incubator that advises law firms on innovation in legal practice and legal business operations.
On this episode, Sanjay discusses entrepreneurship, how innovation efforts in legal have shifted over the last twenty years, and why he sees a DEI crisis on the horizon.
Our Key Takeaways From This Episode
Firms need to be mindful that remote work arrangements could exacerbate the DE&I issues the profession already experiences.
In an industry based on human relationships in which partners cultivate close working relationships with associates who are physically proximate to them, those who are not present in the office may have more ability to bill hours. But they won’t be able to develop relationships with key partners and clients.
Firms that find new ways to integrate different approaches to delivering legal services that include a blend of technology and new models of talent deployment like ALSPs will continue to grow.
Firms that remain wedded to the billable hour only will be under increasing pressure to lower costs, leading to a host of challenges that include associate retention.
Twenty-first Century innovation in legal services moved from a focus on a more globalized model of delegating work that lowers costs to a focus on SaaS software that automates routine and reproducible tasks.
We are now in the midst of a phase that requires a blend of deploying talent in new and strategic ways and leveraging tech to scale the work a firm can handle while reducing the cost and becoming more efficient.
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Full Episode Transcript
Jennifer: What makes you optimistic about the future of the legal profession?
Sanjay: People throughout the legal industry, I believe they feel a momentum. I think they’re recognizing that there’s a need for change from the standpoint of thinking about the rules around the practice of law, the use of technology, what it means to be engaged in the practice of law, the need for women to move ahead, for minorities to move ahead. People are talking about these things and doing things about them. So the momentum is solid.
Jennifer: Hi, everyone. I’m Jennifer Leonard, Chief Innovation Officer at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School. As an alum of the Law School who practiced law for a decade in private sector and government practices, I realized there are so many ways we lawyers can better serve our clients. And now, through the Future of the Profession Initiative, my colleagues and I focus all our energy on thinking about how to do just that.
Our profession is full of bright, engaged lawyers working at the highest levels, but we frustrate many of those we want to serve because of the way we’ve structured the practice of law and our legal systems. And students coming to law school today need new skills that turbocharge their legal education so they can navigate the dynamic landscape that lies ahead.
To develop fresh approaches to the way we educate lawyers and serve our clients, we need to open up the conversation. So on this podcast, we’ll hear from experts working to change the legal profession and leaders who have developed creative solutions to complex problems in other fields. We’ll also discuss how the Law School is producing the next generation of lawyers—a generation that will create new ways to put the people they serve at the center of everything they do.
There’s so much to do, so let’s get started!
Today I’m excited to welcome Sanjay Kamlani. Sanjay is a proud alum of Penn Law’s Class of 1994, and he’s been an entrepreneur in the legal space for the last twenty years.
One of his first and most successful ventures was Pangea3, a legal process outsourcing company he co-founded, which Thomson Reuters later acquired. These days, Sanjya’s developing a platform that will provide law firms with a more equitable way to distribute work to provide better client service and enhance diversity.
Today Sanjay will talk to us all about entrepreneurship, how the focus of innovation efforts in legal has shifted over the last twenty years, and why he sees a DEI crisis on the horizon as law firms plot their post-COVID return to work strategies.
Jennifer: Sanjay, it’s so great to have you on the podcast!
Sanjay: Thank you, Jennifer.
Jennifer: Sanjay, you have entrepreneurship in your blood. You are a first generation American whose parents immigrated here in 1967. And you say you come from an entrepreneurial family. To begin, can you tell us a little bit about growing up with entrepreneurial parents?
Sanjay: Oh yeah. So my father got into the real estate business when we came to the United States. And he started with a job working for a real estate company, learned the real estate business, and then started his own business developing land in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina for new homeowners.
Jennifer: Did you learn a lot of the mindset that you bring to the legal profession from your father?
Sanjay: Yes, absolutely. In fact, over time, my father went into different businesses. So after real estate, particularly in the ’80s when there was an oil crash and real estate crash, he got into the garment business and started producing women’s career blouses from a factory in Queens. Then after doing that for about 10 years, he came back to Miami and started a restaurant with my mother who by then obtained a certificate from the French Culinary Institute. So I saw them engage in multiple entrepreneurial ventures throughout their life. And that definitely influenced the way I thought about my career.
Jennifer: Wow. That’s fascinating. Those are really different businesses. Real estate, women’s career blouses, and restaurants. That’s a lot of pivoting in a lifetime. So interesting. It sounds like he looked for the opportunity and then built something to respond to it. we’re going to talk to you today of course about all the changes happening in the legal profession. Do you think Sanjay that right now is different in quality, in scope of opportunity than maybe when you got started in the early 21st century thinking about entrepreneurship and innovation in legal?
Sanjay: I don’t think it’s very different. I think the environment has shifted more towards technology, and away from globalization. At that time, the idea of globalization or global talent was somewhat novel. And there was a lot of buzz around offshoring and the world is flat type of discussion. And we started Pangea3 right around the time when that was a big thing.
And we were the first to use lawyers offshore to deliver legal services for law firms and in-house counsel in the U.S. Since that time, I think the industry has moved to focus more on technology. And for the last, I would say through the 2010, SaaS software was the big thing. And you would see that there were literally thousands of legal startups in the SaaS software space during that decade. And I think now, things are shifting to the notion of a solution requiring talent and technology to come together.
So I think the fact that there is opportunity for taking the legal industry into a new direction and evolving it I think is similar. But the way in which it’s happening has changed.
Jennifer: And can you explain for listeners who may not be familiar, what SaaS software is?
Sanjay: Sure. So SaaS refers to software as a service. So as opposed to the way software was typically built and installed in the ’80s and ’90s, referred to as enterprise software, where a company might develop software and install it on a server on-premise at a client’s office or in their tech technology center. SaaS software typically is on the provider’s server and now in the cloud. So therefore, that allows the customer and whoever their users are to access that technology through the internet, or what’s referred to as the cloud, without ever having to install that software on their own server. And therefore, the other implication of that is that they don’t really need people or technology talent to operate, maintain, manage that software.
Jennifer: So it sounds to me that saying chapter one of this innovative landscape involved new business models, including offshoring legal talent as you did with Pangea3. Chapter two focused on legal technology and how you could do things more efficiently, how you could automate some of the tasks that lawyers used to do. Chapter three of this journey is the convergence of those two and thinking about how they fit together. Is that accurate?
Sanjay: Yes. I believe that what we will see in the next 10 years is a convergence of talents and technology working together to deliver solutions. And if you think of the discourse or if you listen to the discourse in law firms or in the legal industry today about technology, you often hear some binary type thoughts about technology. The idea that somewhere else in the firm, someone’s using artificial intelligence to do things in an automated way. If they’re unable to do it, then we’ll do it the old way. Or automation of contracts. We’ll let someone else build the automated contract. If that doesn’t work, then we’ll go back to our typical time and billing method mechanisms that have been true in the past.
And the kickback that you often get in law firms from sometimes some of the older partners is well, if we use automation, how will the young lawyers learn to draft? Or if we use artificial intelligence to make our due diligence better, faster, cheaper, how will the associates learn to do due diligence at all?
But the reality is this is really no different than the introduction of the word processor to the law firm. If today you saw a partner dictating to a secretary who turned around and started typing on her typewriter, I think you would say this is antiquated and inefficient. And everyone understands that today, lawyers typically have learned to do word processing and use more advanced tools like Microsoft Word that automate a lot of those functions in order to deliver drafted documents better, faster, cheaper.
And I don’t think artificial intelligence or automation is really any different. And ultimately, lawyers to be successful are going to have to learn to be proficient with these new tools.
Jennifer: I think it’s an interesting conversation. I think about this a lot because obviously, I work at a law school. So we’re thinking about how to prepare our students for the future. And I think about 2004 when I graduated as a litigation associate, first sitting in a room with actual boxes of documents and going through them all day for document review purposes, and then using software to review PDFs. And it changed in that way.
So it sounds like that early stage, what you’re saying is true, which is that it automates in the same way that other technologies have automated. But it seems to me that it’s automating more quickly and giving junior associates the opportunity to move to higher level tasks more quickly. But I wonder if the law firm professional development model is built to keep pace with that speed. Am I assessing the acceleration accurately? And if so, how do we keep pace in preparing students and junior attorneys to accelerate their training and development?
Sanjay: I think it has accelerated. And if you think of it, you brought up document review electronic discovery. Yes, litigation associates can learn something by doing a document review for litigation. But do they need to be doing it manually for one or two years in order to learn what they need to learn from doing it? I don’t think so. And the fact that they now can learn to be proficient on an artificial intelligence driven tool, like Relativity, or Everlaw, or Nuix, or whatever the case may be. In order to find the evidence they’re looking for more quickly and to discard anything irrelevant more quickly, I think they’re still learning what they need to learn. And we can talk about other types of technology, like automating contracts.
Well, I think the lawyers who are going to be successful are the lawyers, at least the associates for the future, are going to be the ones who learn how to use the software. Not to just produce the contract once someone developed the code around that contract, but to actually be able to use the software to develop the automated template, which very few lawyers today in the law firms know how to do. And those are the ones who are highly sought after. The ones who know how to use ContractExpress for example, and build a new template that can then allow the firm to repeatedly produce a contract in basically one 10th of the time that it used to take. Those lawyers again are highly sought after, but very few are even attempting to learn how to use the software.
Well there’s another interesting thing that’s happening at the same time as this tech technology grows. Which is the cost of associates in the top firms and the way that salaries have moved up. And I think they’ve just moved up again, to the point where the bill rates of young associates are so high, that clients are unwilling to pay for those associates.
The other result of that is that partners, at least in many firms depending on how they are structured, is that partners don’t really want associates on their matters, if they cannot build their clients and collect. So if you look at the life of an associate and a firm today versus the life of an associate in the ’90s when I was at a firm, partners are not so willing to let associates be present just to learn. I think the automation and the technology helps to offset the fact that they can’t really go bill and collect six, seven hours for an associate who was learning on a matter anymore. It’s unfortunate because it really begs the question how associates will learn if they’re not able to even sit in on matters. But it doesn’t change the fact that the technology is enabling them at their high bill rate to get work done faster.
Jennifer: I think it’s so interesting the dynamic you’re talking about. Because it is baked into the original model of law firm associate development, that there will be this sort of apprenticeship stage where they get to sit in, or they get to go to depositions or hearings. And the other dynamic that’s contributing I think to a lot of change at that junior level is that the duration of a law firm associate’s time with a firm is becoming shorter and shorter. As the salaries go up and law firm associates are able to pay off their student loans more quickly and find new opportunities, they’re not staying as long as the law firms have planned for them to stay. I think I saw a stat that 65% of law firm associates leave and do something else before the five-year mark.
So I don’t know what happens in that junior stage, if it’s so integral to … and maybe it’s not so integral to the business model that you stay for a certain amount of time so that the firm can recoup its investment in your talent development. And what that means for the number of roles in the future. It seems right now, that there’s a battle of bonuses to keep talent in-house, which for now is keeping things stable. But I wonder what you think about five years down the road, what the junior associate ranks might look like.
Sanjay: I think that one issue that this problem is really dependent on is what law firms really do about the billable hour. And I believe that if law firms continue to drive everything off of the billable hour in terms of how they try to build their clients, how they reward their associates, how they reward their partners, or how they allocate profits to partners. How they determine incentive bonuses for associates based on billable hours. If that continues, I think we will see this trend continue. Because at the same time that salaries are moving up, associates feel that they’re not learning the way they used to learn. And that once they do learn something, since they cost so much, all they’re allowed to do is something that they have figured out how to do. It will be the reason why they keep wanting to leave quickly in order to find something else to do.
I think firms that evolve and figure out how to assess value both in terms of how they bill their clients for value and how they reward associates and partners for value contributed, will probably retain their associates longer.
Jennifer: And I see two factors that make that a challenge in my mind. One is that law firms are coming off of their most profitable year maybe ever in 2020 during the pandemic. So it’s a hard case to make I think to move away from the model that’s serving them so well. And this is something obviously Richard Susskind has been saying forever, that it’s hard to tell a room full of millionaires that their business model is broken.
And I think that the idea that you operate on a year-to-year model versus other companies that might take a five or 10 year strategic approach to the way that they manage their business. It seems to me that that makes it particularly challenging to innovate when you combine that with a business model that doesn’t allow you to even hit pause to figure out how to strategically approach all of these changes. Would you agree with that?
Sanjay: I agree, Jennifer. I think there’s several issues that are sort of intertwined in this situation. One, with respect to 2020, I think we had a little bit of COVID related flight to quality where people went to the top firms to handle a crisis situation. That was not a time for them to go try out something new and kind of off the beaten path. Right? So I wonder what it will be like when things get back to normal.
I think another way to look at what is happening rather than looking at top line profits and revenue of the Am Law 100, if you want to see whether the industry and the model is broken, look at how many lawyers coming from average law schools have jobs or good jobs, and what’s happened to their wage over time.
And because of the entry of ALSPs, because of offshoring, and because of technology, a large number of lawyers who would have had much higher paying jobs in the ’90s today are not able to get jobs that pay more than 20 to $30 an hour. And if you want to see how the industry and the model is changing, you can look there to see that something is happening.
Look, I think that the model and what is happening is changing slowly. And ALSPs are encroaching on law firms’ turf year after year. And some law firms are recognizing it. So you can see that by the fact that out of the Am Law 100, 35 of them have already built captive ALSP units inside their firms. Meaning they’ve taken the legal outsourcing model, the type of unit that we built in Pangea3. And they have literally built it inside the firm, treating it as a separate business unit with different staff, different price points, and starting to implement the types of technology workflow process. The notion of Six Sigma and lean manufacturing into those business processes so that they can compete because they saw that the ALSPs were taking away bread and butter work that was important to their revenue.
Jennifer: And what is the advantage of building in-house a captive ALSP versus outsourcing or contracting out to a standalone ALSP?
Sanjay: Well, the law firm would like to be able to tell their clients, “Listen, you don’t have to go to an ALSP in order to get your document reviewed, Don, at 30 to $50 an hour.” Or, “You don’t need to save money by having the due diligence done with this third party. We can do it for you. We have a special unit priced differently because we’ve replicated that business process with attorneys that are more suited to what you really want to pay for those types of work products.” And because the law firms have the brand and the malpractice insurance, they’re able to charge a premium. So if an ALSP not associated with a law firm is charging somewhere between 30 to $60 an hour for some type of work, the law firms are able to charge 70 to 100 for their brand and for their insurance. And the fact that it’s integrated. And I think there are quite a number of clients that appreciate that.
Jennifer: And it also opens up more opportunities for the Big Four. And I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit about the difference in management approaches from the Big Four consulting firms and professional services firms. And what they’re currently able to do on the legal services side, and what you envision them being able to do in the next 10 years.
Sanjay: Sure. And I think I’ve been in a unique position to comment on it because I actually started my legal career as an attorney at Coopers & Lybrand, which became PricewaterhouseCoopers. And I have long ago recognized the difference between how the partners at PwC operated as compared to what I have seen in law firms.
And one of the big differences, Jennifer, is that a service partner who is not bringing in their own business is respected on a level playing field with the partners who are the rainmakers at the Big Four. Many partners throughout their career at Big Four are actually servicing long standing clients and never bring in a new client on their own. And they’re highly respected and highly paid.
And those firms also think about business development from the standpoint of how do we strategically go after this company and make that company the firm’s client? And then we’ll talk about how to service that client. That’s not the way most law firms work. In most law firms as you know, each partner is out for themselves and often competing with one another from the same firm to win over a client.
So the notion of the firm thinking about who to put on a team to go out for a client and win them together is not that common. So I think that’s a big, big difference that puts the Big Four ahead of the law firms in terms of their ability to win business from large companies away from firms. And I think also, people don’t appreciate that the Big Four today, each one of them have thousands of lawyers on their payroll doing ALSP type work. And I don’t know if you realize that Ernst & Young, actually now referred to as EY officially, they actually bought Pangea3 from Thomson Reuters about two years ago.
Jennifer: I did know that. I forgot about that. I know through our board member Joe Borstein, of course, who was there during the transition. And what you’re talking about, Sanjay, Sunday also reminds me, it connects back to what you were talking about, about technology in the firms. That maybe there’s a practice group, or there’s an attorney who’s using AI or contract automation software. And the other partners are sort of looking on from the side to see what happens with it and whether they might adopt it. But it’s very siloed, partner to partner or practice group to practice group versus a more integrated strategic approach to leveraging tools across your organization.
And in talking about the way that different roles are respected, thinking about the way that talent thinks differently about the way they engage with work, I just want to move into another discussion that you’re thinking about that I find so interesting. Which is as we’re coming out of this pandemic and recognizing that we are a profession with an abysmal record on diversity, equity, and inclusion, particularly for women and diverse attorneys, you’re concerned as we’re talking about all these hybrid work environments about a reverse DEI problem that people are thinking about this flexibility as a really great thing for working parents and working moms in particular. But it could actually backfire. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Sanjay: Yes. Absolutely. So I think that everyone in leadership across professional service firms actually, across corporate America, were very surprised by the result of remote working during COVID. Across the board, they found people to be more productive. They found that there was no problem with people working anywhere they chose. Many people decided to go live somewhere else during COVID, rather than in say the big city. I know several people who decided to go live in Hawaii for six months and work from Hawaii.
So leadership across firms, professional services firms, and corporate America have now concluded that they need to develop a new policy that allows for remote working, and that there’s no need for everyone to come back to work full-time in person. And they’re viewing this also potentially as a watershed moment for diversity, equity, and inclusion, particularly where it’s been difficult in law firms for the firms to make women partners because of the incentive structure that we talked about before, right? All focused on the billable hour, and you had to show up in order to get your work, and you had to show up in order to generate your hours. And because the incentives and how we decide how to compensate and who to make partners based on hitting billable hour numbers. Well suddenly, we saw that people can work remotely, so they can now achieve that without having to be present. So this might help women continue to move up in the firms, even if they decide to spend less time in the office for maternity or other reasons.
Well, I think that what really is going to happen is that the workplace is not the same when some people are remote and others are present. The idea that remote workers will have the same experience in the future when 70% or whatever the number is actually present in person, it’s just not the same. And what people are going to find is that the people who show up are the ones who are getting the work. Because you can actually already see it. There are firms where people have started to come back into the office. And the leadership is already actually noticing that the people who are getting the work are the people who are showing up. And this actually goes to how work is typically allocated in law firms. You have this situation where people who are sitting outside a particular partner’s office tend to get the work. The partner sort of pokes their head out their door, looks at the associates who are near them. Usually because they’ve chosen which associates to seat outside their office. And those are the people who tend to get the work. And I think that unless there is a concerted effort to address how work is allocated, the remote working situation or the idea that we can allow people to work remotely if they choose will have a reverse effect on women’s ability to move up in these firms.
Jennifer: Yeah. I certainly remember those days of everybody jockeying to sit near the partners they really wanted to work for. But you’re working on a solution to respond to this potential widening of inequity and work assignments.
Sanjay: Yes. And Jen, we were working on this before just to deal with the DEI problem pre-COVID. Just to deal with the notion of affinity bias infiltrating how all these decisions are made. These partners choose that subconsciously or consciously, usually subconsciously, partners are choosing people that remind them of themselves or more like themselves to work with, hang out with. And those are the people they seat outside their office.
So when they’re looking to give the work, it’s the women and the minorities who are not getting a lot of the work. I mean, look at the percentage of women who make partner in the law firm is less than 17%. And the percentage of minorities in the firms in aggregate is something like 18 to 20%. So without a different way of staffing, these individuals are not getting the good work. And they’re therefore able not to develop and not to move up.
So one of the modules in the platform that we’re working on is designed to create robust and expertise profiles of attorneys. and to give partners a tool if they choose, because they care about these issues. To look at the tool and say, “Listen, I’m looking for this kind of person with some expertise in this particular type of industry. Who’s out there?” And now without regard to location. They can say, “Listen, you might be in Miami. But in Ohio, you’ve got an associate who’s an expert in the semiconductor chip industry. They work well in hostile situations. They’ve done M&A in the technology space. Maybe you should work with that individual instead of the person who’s seated outside your door, who has never worked with semiconductor chip companies before.”
Jennifer: That’s really interesting. And I could see two different, I guess challenges in two different populations in the firms with implementing a solution like this, which also relates to our earlier conversation about having a more expansive geographic view of the talent in your organization. One is we know that senior partners like to do things the way that they’ve done things to make themselves successful. And that firms sometimes try to adopt new technology, or new workflows, or whatever. And senior partners find their way to work around whatever the new thing is. So how do you keep senior partners engaged? Or they haven’t even been introduced to the platform yet, but comfortable with a work assignment system like this.
Sanjay: One has to make a pitch to them that in order for them to stay competitive, they need to adopt a tool like this and think about staffing. And it’s funny, just like with why they need to think about artificial intelligence and ALSPs, they need to think about how they’re addressing DEI, because their clients are insisting on it. There are quite a number of clients, Coca-Cola being the most extreme, but quite a number of others I’ve heard of from Bank of America and a host of others that are insisting on deep metrics about diverse attorneys being on matters. Not only that they get to see that these people are on the matters, but they want to know how many of the hours were generated by those people. If it’s a partner, they want to know how much of the revenue generated from the client was allocated to that partner. They want to know that what work is really being done by the diverse attorneys.
And law firms know today that they need to be able to demonstrate metrics around this. And because it runs so deep, it cannot be cosmetic. And a tool like this will enable them to do so.
Jennifer: And these GCs offices, are they focused on origination credit as well for women and diverse attorneys?
Sanjay: Some of them are demanding to see who’s getting the origination credit. Absolutely. It’s moved way beyond, “I need to see a woman or a Black person show up to a meeting.” That is just not cutting it anymore.
Jennifer: So that’s one group. So making the business case to the senior partners, the pressure from the GCs office. The other group that I’m more closely connected with these days are the incoming associates. And they’re really right demands for greater equity and inclusion in the profession. And also, their desire not to be labeled as a woman associate, a Black associate, a Latino associate. So how do you get junior associates to opt into a system that would categorize them for diversity purposes?
Sanjay: You’re absolutely correct Jen. So the young associates are quite averse to being tagged as the woman, or the Black person, or the Latino. They want to be an attorney like anybody else. They are not interested in meeting with the diversity, equity, and inclusion people, or being part of some kind of committee or group. They just want to be a normal attorney.
One has to approach them the same as approaching partners and saying, “Look, if you want this firm to grow and to be successful, and you want this firm to be able to continue to serve the top clients, we have to be able to demonstrate to those clients that you are involved, that you are involved in their matters. And we need to be able to show metrics. So if you don’t allow us to tag you for those diverse characteristics and then deliver the metrics, we will lose out.” And I would think that associates even if they one day as you say might want to leave firms quicker. At least at the outset, I think they’re likely to understand that in order to help the firm with business, they will need to participate in these types of programs.
Jennifer: Yeah. I think making the argument to them that this is a way that they can contribute to enhancing the diversity and equity of the profession would be compelling to them. They’re looking as a generation I think to really be the one to make real change. And if this tool were able to give them the opportunity to do that, I think that would be salient for them.
I’m wondering if you have any questions for me as somebody who is working with future lawyers about to enter the profession about how we’re responding at the law school level to all of this change around us.
Sanjay: I’m certainly interested, Jen, to understand how young lawyers are thinking about technology and the extent to which it’s segmented? Or is it becoming more comprehensive in terms of lawyers in the law school wanting and appreciating the need to learn the technology and use the technology to deliver legal services?
Jennifer: I think in my experience, it is a little bit segmented that you have students who are very, very interested in leveraging technology to design new legal service solutions. And then you have students who are not yet totally familiar with the role that technology plays in legal services, which is understandable. Because until fairly recently, it was not prominently part of the business model.
I think that law schools as a whole, and certainly at Penn, there has been an increased effort to recruit students with STEM backgrounds and to accept tests like the GRE and the GMAT in addition to the LSAT, in part to bring to the profession a diversity of disciplinary training that will enable us to move forward on technology.
I think that the challenge for law schools always is the question of whether we should be teaching specific types of technology, or whether we should be creating opportunities for students to understand how they can leverage tools in a representation. Which parts can be automated, which parts can they look to technology to solve, and which parts require real human judgment? And what does that human judgment look like?
And just as one example of something we’re doing through FPI is we’ve affiliated with the Access to Justice Tech Fellowship program, which is a summer training program where students learn some of the deficiencies in the legal services space in the public interest. And then they’re taught over the summer how to think about design thinking, technology, and data to create scalable solutions to deliver legal services.
So I think some students come in really, really sophisticated around technology and the potential it represents. Others really need support in understanding how the profession is changing. And what we’re trying to do is bring in more people to sit in class with those students who have sophisticated backgrounds and provide new opportunities for them to see what it looks like in context.
Sanjay: That’s interesting. That’s great. I think that over the next several years, there will be an expectation that all lawyers have more of an understanding of data and statistics, and how to think about data than they do today. And while everyone will not need to be able to code as a part of their day-to-day practice of law, I think that by 2030, we’ll actually see that every law student has at least had a course in coding, and is able to talk about coding. So they understand what it means, and what it looks like, and what computer software code is, even if they don’t day-to-day engage in coding.
Jennifer: And do you think that’s true even as software itself becomes more user-friendly in a way that doesn’t require the end user to necessarily understand how it works from a computer programming standpoint? I’m thinking of the no-code software that is becoming more sophisticated.
Sanjay: The thing is that in order for an attorney who becomes an expert at something, some area of law, some industry, to see that what they’re doing manually can be done much better using software. And to think about how to use the right kind of software in order to improve the tasks and the work product that they’re engaged in. I believe they need to know more about software and how it works than most lawyers are today.
Jennifer: That’s fair. And I’ll look forward to staying in touch with you as our curriculum evolves so we can keep learning from you and others who are in this entrepreneurial space.
I would love to do a quick lightning round with you, if that’s okay with you.
Jennifer: All right. So I’m going to present you with a series of questions, and I’d love to get your answer in 10 seconds or less. So Sanjay, what force do you think will have the most significant effect on the legal profession in the next five years?
Sanjay: Alternative fee arrangements.
Jennifer: If you were investing in one innovative tool, technology, a new business model, something else emerging in the legal landscape now, what would it be?
Sanjay: Artificial intelligence based tools.
Jennifer: Is there another industry you would use as an exemplar of how to re-imagine service provision?
Sanjay: The Big Four. The accounting firms.
Jennifer: And my last question for you is what book or podcast would you recommend to others who want to think differently about the future of legal?
Sanjay: I would listen to Tim Ferriss’ podcast interviewing Balaji Subramaniam.
Jennifer: Excellent. You’re really good at lightning rounds. I’m never that concise..
Well, thank you so much for spending your very valuable time with us today Sanjay. It’s such a pleasure. I learn so much every time I talk with you. I hope we can stay in touch, and I wish you all the best with your new platform.
Sanjay: Thank you, Jen. It’s been a pleasure, and I very much look forward to staying in touch with you as well.`
Jennifer: What an enlightening conversation with Sanjay Kamlani! Here are my key takeaways:
First, firms need to be mindful that remote work arrangements could exacerbate the DE&I issues the profession already experiences. In an industry based on human relationships in which partners cultivate close working relationships with associates who are physically proximate to them, those who are not present in the office may have more ability to bill hours. But they won’t be able to develop relationships with key partners and clients.
Second, firms that find new ways to integrate different approaches to delivering legal services that include a blend of technology and new models of talent deployment like ALSPs will continue to grow. Firms that remain wedded to the billable hour only will be under increasing pressure to lower costs, leading to a host of challenges that include associate retention.
Third, Twenty-first Century innovation in legal services moved from a focus on a more globalized model of delegating work that lowers costs to a focus on SaaS software that automates routine and reproducible tasks. We are now in the midst of a phase that requires a blend of deploying talent in new and strategic ways and leveraging tech to scale the work a firm can handle while reducing the cost and becoming more efficient.
Thanks to all of you for joining us today. Make sure to subscribe to this podcast wherever you get your podcasts. Be sure to leave us a comment and rate the show, too. If you’d like to learn more about the Future of the Profession Initiative at Penn Carey Law School, visit us online at law.upenn.edu/futureprofessioninitiative
We’ll see you next time on another edition of Law 2030.