“If we didn’t know what a law firm was supposed to look like – if we were Martians from Mars – how exactly would we do this?” 

Today’s guest Mitch Kowalski is a globally acclaimed author, legal operations advisor, innovation consultant and a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management in Toronto, Canada. I came across Mitch when he came to do a talk in Perth a few years ago and since then I’ve been a huge fan of his work.  

Mitch’s perspective has grown alongside the countless law firms and, crucially, law students that he’s worked with over the years. In fact, hindsight features heavily in our discussion: Mitch laments the lack of real change that’s occurred in the decade since he wrote his book Avoiding Extinction: Reimagining Legal Practices for the 21st Century. This view may be a touch pessimistic but the reality is that Mitch and I float around in a bubble of forward-thinking lawyers while the rest of the industry stands still in a permanent state of inertia. As Mitch puts it: 

“If you put our bubble in a bucket, you see that the bucket really hasn’t moved. You might have made a little bit of a ripple but it ain’t moving that much. That’s how I look at rate of change: Has the profession as a whole moved forward?”  

In tackling that question, we talk about Covid-19 and the impact it could and should have on the business of law; an easier litigation procedure, moving away from big firm environments and more remote working… These changes and more could be super positive for the legal industry but only if it were to stop resisting change.  

Hope for a better future might lie in the next generation of lawyers and Mitch is right there in the trenches with them; teaching, moulding and planting seeds. In the podcast, he gives an impassioned rundown of the educational challenges – outrageous tuition fees included – that face today’s up-and-coming lawyers. In response to his firsthand experiences and to wider trends, he discusses potential ways to reinvent the system ranging from practical, immediate changes to radical, long-term ways of restructuring education as a whole.  

“If your goal as a law school is to pump out graduates and say ‘good luck’, that’s fine. But if your goal is to train the widest range of people who will do good for society because of their diverse range of experiences in life, and to give them the tools necessary so they can hit the ground running faster than their colleagues elsewhere, then I think we have to really blow it up and start again.”  

If you want to join the bubble, listen to what Mitch has to say about the state of the industry, read his books and watch his talks. He’s been saying this stuff for a decade now and though the mainstream is finally catching on, it will take real effort and momentum to actually make a difference. 

About our guest 

Mitchell Kowalski is General Counsel of Aoyuan Canada and the Gowling WLG Visiting Professor in Legal Innovation at the University of Calgary Law School. He is a Fellow of the prestigious College of Law Practice Management, a Fastcase 50 Global Legal Innovator, and the author of the critically-acclaimed books, The Great Legal Reformation: Notes from the Field, and Avoiding Extinction: Reimagining Legal Services for the 21st Century

Mitch Kowalski quotes 

  • “We should blow up the law firms and the law schools and start fresh.” 
  • “There’s far too much inertia in the legal profession and that really holds us back.” 
  • “The pace of change has been brutally slow… Law firms don’t change unless they have to.” 
  • “The firm delivers the service and whoever it is within the firm doesn’t really matter because it’s the firm, the process, the technology and how everything interacts with the people that provide the product.” 

Find Mitch online 

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