Tis the season for trend spotting! As the year winds down, predictions of hot practice areas and the future of law will cram the legal trade press and blogs. In fact, Bob Denney has already released his always excellent annual “What’s Hot and What’s Not” over at
Attorney at Work; if you only have time for one trend piece, I commend Denney’s.
Though I’ll also release a trend paper later this month, here’s what I suggest if you want to trend spot. Instead of sitting down with a bunch of blog posts and data, call a few colleagues and book a week’s worth of lunch dates at area restaurants where you’ve never been — from casual to upscale. The meetings offer an opportunity to network, but that’s just an ancillary benefit of my proposed exercise. Rather, the real value of visiting these establishments is to gain insight into next year’s trends.
More than any other analogous industry, I’ve found that the restaurant biz acts as an uncannily reliable barometer of where the proverbial puck will be next year. It’s true for several reasons, I think. For starters, virtually everyone — from consumers to business folk – eat out, and so restaurants offer insights that apply to a variety of law practices. In addition, the restaurant business, at its core, is a service industry, as is the legal profession.
I’ve written about restaurant trends as they pertain to law practice several times. In 2011, I noted the hyper-local restaurant trend and its relationship to a sustainable legal practice (since local lawyers with strong community ties are less likely to be replaced by Legal Zoom and online providers). Likewise, the trend at my local WholeFoods of identifying the source of each type of produce suggests a growing consumer interest in transparency as well as a desire for a more personal relationship with providers. Even restaurant design and branding can yield clues; back in 2012, I wrote about the discernible rise in use of graphic design on restaurant menus and described the relationship of graphics to law, as evidence by Nathan Burney’s Illustrated Guide to Law. This year, lo and behold, there are at least two law schools focusing on design thinking and the legal profession. [click to continue…]