Happy new decade and thank you for reading this column, which I have been fortunate enough to author for about that length of time. My sincere thanks as well to Corporate Counsel editor-in-chief Heather D. Nevitt, and her predecessors, for deciding that my career missives merit your consideration.
I am stealing Heather’s title from Corporate Counsel’s January cover (“2020 Vision”), but with a twist of chutzpah. I am going to share my predictions of what in-house careers will look like in 2030. My crystal ball reveals:
- You will office virtually, whether or not you want to do so. Traditional headquarters as we know them will be mainly gone. There will be occasional in-person gatherings and retreats. But geography will no longer drive in-house counsel hiring. Virtual meeting technology will evolve and allow for sufficiently robust human interactions.
- Artificial intelligence won’t take your job by 2030. I was wrong 10 years ago when, influenced largely by Richard Susskind’s book “The End of Lawyers?”, I predicted that by 2020 a large percentage of bread and butter in-house roles would go away. I have never been so happy to be wrong. It’s always trendy to predict how technology will disrupt each profession. But I think what we’ve learned is that judgment, persuasion, politics and decision-making will remain in human hands a bit longer than the technologists would like.
- I predict the birth of a new kind of billable hour. I don’t care about the law firm billable hour, which may or may not still be the dominant outside counsel business model by 2030. I do care about how in-house counsel are compensated. I also know that many of you crave flexible work/life balance schedules. What do the terms full-time, part-time and flex-time all have in common? The word time! And Big Brother-caliber technology will be able to track yours, no matter the work platform or location. When and where we work will become less relevant, but how much we work will still matter to employers. And paying for many roles by the hour can provide fairness to employer and employee alike. Don’t worry, it will not be minimum wage.
- I have one regulatory related prediction. I am politically neutral and have a distaste for regulation generally, which drives my mainly liberal friends in Chicago where I live a bit crazy. However, I fear that climate change is indeed the great underestimated crisis of our time. In 2030, I think all in-house lawyers will in some manner be environmental lawyers. And by that, I mean climate change-related regulations will come to dominate almost every industry. In-house counsel will fill a critical role for society, by counseling their employers on how to navigate environmental standards that we are not fathoming in 2020.
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