August 9, 2012
Beyond Doom and Gloom: Reimagining Legal Services and just as important Legal Education for the 21st Century (with a little self-interested help from the commercial vendor community)
In Avoiding Extinction: Reimagining Legal Services for the 21st Century (ABA, 2012), the transitioning law firm is the literary motif of Mitch Kowalski's fictional account of a law firm trying to adapt to and remain competitive in the changing landscape for legal services by implementing new internal practices. From the blurb:
The past few years have seen incredible innovation and growth in the way legal services can be delivered--yet most law firms around the world continue to practice law the way it's been practiced for centuries, namely, as a labor-intensive endeavor carried out by high-priced lawyers billing by the hour.
Directly inspired by Richard Susskind's ground-breaking The End of Lawyers (Oxford Univ. Press 2008), Toronto lawyer Mitchell Kowalski now provides a vivid, believable account of everything a law firm could be.
In the book, you'll see how a typical big law firm fails to deliver real value to the client, resulting in dissatisfied clients and burned-out and stressed lawyers in the process. You'll discover the ways the firm can be redefined as a service corporation that is structured and managed in ways that truly deliver value to the client, profitability to the firm and career satisfaction to the lawyers. Then, by the book's end, you will know how to apply these ideas to your own situation and enjoy the benefits.
Slaw's Omar Ha-Redeye writes an excellent and sometimes critical review of the work in The Kowalski Bible on Lawyer Conservation.
A Capstone Course on Preparing "Practice Ready" Law School Grads? If ever the legal academy was to require a capstone course on how to practice law and manage a law practice, Kowalski's Avoiding Extinction should be required reading. Of course to be a skill-based capstone course, many additional courses would have to be offered. In this case, profs would have to come up to speed first, particularly in many real world IT solutions. That's not really being promoted in law school in no small part our major professional legal services vendors are not exposing law profs and, more importantly, law students to most of their commercial solutions.
Why that is the case, is beyond me. If indoctrination to individual vendor online legal search services is the objective of providing them to law students at wholesale prices for three years, why not do exactly the same for solutions? Take for just one example, moot court competitions and law school clinics. By adding productivity and practice management solutions, those regular offerings could be situated in a more realistic setting. Even the editorial processing of law review submissions could be enhanced by productivity-driven work production and workflow solutions tied to online legal search services.
Two related components are clearly missing in reimagining legal services: (1) reimagining skills-based legal education by the legal academy and (2) reimagining the provision of solution suites to law students by commercial vendors. Imagine, for example, "Best Practices" law school competitions judged by practitioners and their law office IT administrators in terms of quality of addressing client needs and efficiency of work production in transactional and litigation settings. [JH]