We've got a fascinating white paper here (see attached PDF) from LexisNexis on the pace of change in the Australian legal industry. The paper is based on roundtable discussion LexisNexis held in Sydney earlier this year. The topics covered include…

Social media and the fear of the immediate
–  Despite the prevalent concerns about its increasing use within legal firms, social media is not only a trend to be observed by the legal industry, it is one to be embraced. The tried and tested methods of proving legal expertise and analysis to the wider profession – authoring journal articles for example – can be complemented with participation and engagement with numerous online communities, providing an opportunity for informal interaction and discussion.
–  Social media as a real-time channel brings further difficulty for lawyers in the issues of liability and confidentiality. However, whatever the channel, it is a lawyer’s knowledge, analytical thinking and relationships that will provide true value. While social media allows exaggerated response times, the well-researched, considered thinking and clear communication that has always been esteemed will endure.
 
The ‘democratisation of information’
–  “I think there’s a super-trend, if you like, which is the democratisation of information. As lawyers, our stock in trade is the fact we’ve got information other people don’t. I think what social media does is it unlocks that and potentially undermines the traditional role of the lawyer as being the person who had sole right or had sole knowledge of the law.” – Nick Abrahams, former Sydney Chairman & partner, Norton Rose
–  Maintaining an active online profile through continuous engagement is essential to ensure a lawyer’s brand is front of mind during social media best practice discussions.
–  Clients are suffering from information overload which brings a necessity for improved quality control. Clients require the correct information selected and delivered quickly and clearly, requiring lawyers to now act as knowledge filters akin to newspaper editors. The best counsel will remain concise, timely and relevant, requiring lawyers to become accustomed to information management alongside their other responsibilities.
 
Globalisation driving the niche
The globalisation of the legal industry continues to gather pace, driven by the ubiquity and ease of access to materials provided by technology solutions. Developments in technology are not only of benefit to large firms expanding across jurisdictions, providing consistent service. Cloud databases, access to online platforms and information and shared practice management software allows small firms and start-ups to bill from the inception of their practice, driving the growth of niche and specialist firms providing specific solutions in defined areas.
We also like the prediction that ultimately “there will only be room for 20 global firms that are truly global”

 
The white paper also discusses issues of industry-wide significance, including: young lawyers’ perception of the legal role versus reality – where day-to-day lawyering proves to be totally removed from the fantasy of legal life portrayed in popular culture; whether a depression-prone personality is a pre-existing issue for new lawyers entering the profession; and the never-ending saga of the pros and cons of the hourly billing model.