The future of the legal industry isn’t what it used to be. For years, the headlines have been pessimistic: fewer jobs for law school graduates, downsizing at firms, and a declining reputation with the public. But we foresee a future where the legal sector not only prospers, but leads the most exciting changes in our society. We are lawyers and executives in the legal industry 1 who spent a full year mapping the most significant trends in technology, economics and cultural change to how law firms actually work. We consulted big thinkers at leading companies and universities, authors and reporters, and designers from around the world who are already sketching the future. 2 Our conclusion? Law is facing disruptions like those that reconfigured media, telecommunications, health care, and other fields. As in those industries, the changes will introduce unexpected challenges and unprecedented opportunities, and will undoubtedly produce new winners and losers. Firms on the right path will have to face the hard truth that their actions today won’t be understood for years. Yet their reward will be an opportunity to reshape the legal industry. This is our guide to how today’s firms can prosper from the coming disruption. Think of them as rules sent back from the future. 1 Technologies will enable lawyers to bill for real value Our findings: Many lawyers are already experimenting with digital tools to enhance their practices. But the most powerful new technologies will likely be developed by innovators outside the traditional legal industry who are incentivized to offer basic legal services for radically lower costs. The opportunity: The automation of basic legal transactions will initially cut into firms’ bottom lines. But more nimble firms will incorporate useful tools to reduce costs no matter where they come from. Others will bring disruption in-house by hiring or acquiring talented technologists and their intellectual property. Either way, firms that accept these changes will be able to shift to premium billing as they perfect the high-value products only the most creative counselors can provide. Firms will also discover entirely new forms of practice, like computer-assisted law, that can only be pursued in this technological environment.