The storm isn’t coming—it’s here. Since the U.K. Solicitors Regulation Authority first allowed law firms under its jurisdiction to accept equity from nonlawyers back in 2012, debate has raged about whether the United States should do the same. The fallout from those decisions threatens to have huge ramifications for the legal profession, but when it comes to the way law firms are engaging with technology and disruption, nonlawyer ownership is more of an accelerant than the spark lighting a “Mission: Impossible”-style fuse.

For starters, even without any game-changing ownership on the table, the U.S. legal industry is already changing. That disruption isn’t being driven by regulatory evolution, but rather by the age-old maxim that the customer is always right. Factors ranging from the rise of the legal operations professional to a trend that sees corporate law insourcing e-discovery, litigation and other technology-related tasks have given rise to a newly sophisticated client base—one that expects a more innovative approach to law firm services across the board.

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