With the year winding down, Legal Current is revisiting 2020 milestones and key accomplishments from the Legal business of Thomson Reuters. Today we look at the keynote address delivered by Richard Punt, managing director of Legal Strategy and Market Development for Thomson Reuters, at ILTA>ON, the virtual version of in the International Legal Technology Association’s annual ILTACON conference.

Punt’s speech, After the Quake: Predictions for an Uncertain Legal Future, explored the longer-term implications of the COVID-19 pandemic and how it will reshape demand in the legal industry.

He shared six predictions to help firms understand what’s happening and how to best take action:

  • Demand for legal services will be fundamentally reshaped.
  • General counsel will focus on business outcomes, not legal inputs.
  • The practice of law will become codified.
  • Platforms and data markets will drive transactions.
  • Justice will shift decisively online as COVID-19 putting virtual courts in the spotlight.
  • A new social contract with legal talent needs to be developed.

Punt’s comments sparked conversations among industry journalists and influencers, including  Above the Law’s Joe Patrice, who homed in on Punt’s prediction around an increased online shift of justice: “It may be hard to believe that justice is moving online with all the pushback to the mere suggestion of moving trials online, but Punt doesn’t necessarily see trials moving online as much as an increased acceptance that many other stages of litigation can. That’s certainly not too hard to believe.”

On TechLaw Crossroads, Steve Embry agreed with Punt’s key points, noting: “He has a ringside seat to what is going on in the legal industry both for in house counsel and law firms. His predictions for the future due to the ongoing changes in the industry and COVID should cause many law firms to think long and hard about where they are and where they are going.”

Punt emphasized an important aspect of the impact of the pandemic on law firms: their relationship with talent.

“The law firm model has relied heavily on the ability to cause a cadre of incredibly smart people to make significant personal sacrifices and to conform to a set of written and unwritten rules about how things are done,” he said. “While no doubt there will be some firms – and some lawyers – who continue to work within that frame, now is the time for some enlightenment. Reframing the social contract with their people – both current and future – is the top priority for law firm leadership today.”

He added, “What has happened over the last few months is not just about the pace of change; it is going to drive a profound shift in its direction.”

He predicted only a few bold firms will recognize the discontinuity and reframe their strategy and direction. He encouraged law firms to pivot now to better serve the companies that are likely to come out the strongest from the COVID-19 disruption.

“Your task now is to galvanize your firms to take the bold moves which this post-COVID future demands,” Punt concluded.