The Future of the Practice of Law in New Jersey: More Technology, More Specialization, Aging Clients, More Mediation and Collaborative Practice, and Fewer Trials

New Jersey Lawyer (NJL), the official newspaper of the New Jersey Bar, recently took a look ahead to describe the practice of law in New Jersey in the future. The newspaper’s focus was on how the practice of law will change in the coming decade. To describe the future of the law in New Jersey, NJL surveyed several veteran NJ lawyers about emerging trends in their legal practices – and law in general. For example, nearly all the lawyers surveyed mentioned the ever-growing importance of technology. Also, many practitioners mentioned that the next decade will signal the demise of the general practitioner who handles “whatever business walks in the door.” Paul D. Kreisinger, a Ho-Ho-Kus solo and first vice chairman of the New Jersey State Bar Association’s General Practice Section, said: “General practice is receding into the sunset. I see people becoming like little boutiques – doing a few things very well.” The general consensus was that specialization is in the cards for solos.

Another common theme predicted by lawyers in various practice areas is the continuing move away from trials as mechanisms for settling disputes. Currently, only 1.8% of all cases filed in state court in NJ go to trial. From the article (my emphasis added):

Blank Rome’s Orlofsky said “more and more cases will be resolved in some form of ADR.” (emphasis added)

That push will continue, not only due to mandatory ADR programs instituted by various courts, but also by corporations’ desire to settle commercial disputes quickly.

Corporations will continue to prefer alternative options to trial, because they are “willing to pay for a quick decision, which is sometimes better than the right decision,” Orlofsky noted.

He said more medium-sized companies are entering into highly elaborate ADR clauses in their disputes that call for confidentiality agreements and time frames for reaching resolutions.

Companies also prefer arbitration, he said, because they can choose who resolves the dispute.

The article also predicted the increasing use of mediation and collaborative practice in the future to resolve issues in family law:

Ceconi, a family law attorney, said courts increasingly rely on hearing officers to handle a range of issues. “In family court, the calendar has become so congested that you will have to bring in people other than judges,” she added.

Charles F. Vuotto Jr. of Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer in Woodbridge also sees increasing use of ADR mechanisms such as mediation, arbitration and collaborative law in settling divorces and custody battles. (emphasis added)

Peter Verniero, the former Supreme Court justice and attorney general who now practices white-collar criminal law at Newark’s Sills Cummis Epstein & Gross, also foresees an increasing reliance on non-judges to relieve the court’s burdens.

Several of the attorneys discussed the impact of the “graying of America” as the baby boom generation enters senior citizenship.

Regina M. Spielberg, a trust and estate lawyer with Morristown’s Schenck, Price, Smith & King, said the aging population will require more services in both estate planning and elder law.

“There’s awareness among baby boomers about the need for estate planning,” she said. “And an increasing number of families are recognizing disabilities and making plans to accommodate them.”

Vuotto, the Woodbridge attorney, said that as a result of longer life spans, many aspects of elder law will begin intersecting with family law. (emphasis added)

“People are having children when they are older,” he noted, forecasting courts will be dealing with issues such as alimony and child support payments from retired parents, and the need to plan for medical expenses in divorce settlements.

The entire article can be found here: NJ Lawyer-The Future of Law Practice.