Friday, April 13, 2012

Three Blog Posts that Explain Structural Change

StructuralchangeThree recent posts from nonacademics do a good job of explaining how and why the legal services industry is undergoing a massive structural change:

Jordan Furlong, Law 21, in a post entitled "Losing the Confidence Game":  "Here are six observations about the legal marketplace for you to consider, each supported by a news report filed just in the last few days ... ."  Furlong is a Canadian-trained lawyer, journalist, and consultant.  He is one of the most networked observers of the legal services industry I know.

Ron Friedmann, Strategic Legal Technology, in a post entitled "Does BigLaw have a Future?"  The answer is yes, but in way that is hugely disruptive to our settled views of how things work.  Ron, who has worked at the intersection of law and technology for 30 years, writes: 

Some firms may fade, some may implode, but others will thrive. Thriving, however, requires thinking and innovating. Some are doing so as these examples and data illustrate:

  • I count 10 firms that operate low cost, centralized service centers, some of which provide lawyer support as well as business services. ... 
  • About a dozen firms, perhaps more, have industrialized their approach to e-discovery and document review.
  • Several firms now take project management seriously. ... 
  • Three firms now offer alternative staffing models, arguably competing with staffing agencies. ...
  • About one-half dozen firms have publicly announced partnerships with legal process outsourcing (LPO) companies.
  • I understand about a dozen firms now have pricing specialists to deal with alternative fee arrangements.

Patrick Lamb, The New Normal, in a post entitled "A 'Valorem Dozen': The Ingredients of One New Normal Law Firm."  Lamb, a talented trial lawyer and former large law firm partner, lays out the how-to kit for alternative fee boutiques.  At a minimum, running an alternative fee shop requires slaying inefficiencies, embracing market forces, and developing a broader set of skills.  Here are some of Lamb's bullet points:

1) Sell what is valuable to your clients. No client has ever gone to a law firm looking simply to buy time. They go to lawyers to solve business problems that involve some legal issue. ...

3) Embrace the $60-per-hour-lawyer. ... [Y]ou can get great lawyers at a much lower price[ ]. You don't need to have these lawyers as employees, you just need to have access to them when you need them, for as long as you need them. ...

9) Collaboration is key. Most large firms, indeed most firms of any size, are a collection of silos ... We believed that if our senior people brainstormed and collaborated together, great things would happen and we would produce work and results better than any of us would do alone. ...  Hindsight shows that we were right on the money on this issue.

Folks, structural change in the legal profession is happening very quickly.  We legal educators need to spend a substantial portion of our time talking to people working in the legal services industry.  Every conversation should expand the list of who to talk to next.  And we need to put our pet theories and ideas on the shelf and just listen to what these lawyers and legal service vendors have to say.  Otherwise, in five years, traditional legal education is going to look like General Motors circa 2008. 

[Posted by Bill Henderson]

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legalwhiteboard/2012/04/three-blog-posts-that-explain-structural-change.html

Blog posts worth reading, Current events, Innovations in law, Law Firms, Structural change | Permalink

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