Thursday, April 26, 2012

The old law firm paradigm versus the new one

Here's an interesting table from Paul Lippe, the forward thinking commentator behind the ABA Journal's "New Normal" column, reflecting old law firm methods and values versus new ones.

Old Normal New Normal
Information location File cabinet. “Cloud.”
Most important tool “My” brain + pen. Connected brains + Web-based collaboration.
First instinct Make things more complex. Make things more simple.
Metaphor Brain surgeon. Utility.
Center of gravity Law firm library. General counsel’s office.
How often is law relevant to clients? Occasionally. Systematically.
Geography National. Global and online.
Orientation Every matter is unique—to think otherwise is to devalue, “commoditize”  the profession. Every matter is similar to other matters—start with similarity, and refine with unique elements— “reinventing the wheel” leads to mistakes, excess costs and clients avoiding lawyers.
Approach to negotiation, conflict Win-lose. Win-win.
Cost Expensive. Reasonable, consistent with other services.
Effort Maximum—any less is unethical. Appropriate—focus on outcomes, not inputs.
Most common metric Hours. Outcomes assessment.
Organizational norm Hierarchy. Distributed authority based on accountability.
Intellectual style Reasoning. Inquiry.
Most common phrase “Avoid risk.” “Achieve opportunity.”
Most common billing method Billable hours. Billable hours—but with more performance kickers.
No. 1 source of law firm profits E-discovery work in jumbly investigations. Success-based bonuses.
Meeting place Law firm conference room. Cyberspace.
Law firm strategic objective Maximize this year’s profit per partner. Maximize cash flow in 3-5 years.
Key young lawyer skill Legal research. Project management.
Where work goes if it doesn’t go to law firm Legal department headed by former firm partner. Legal department headed by executive who worked in firm only briefly, and legal process outsourcer.
Iconic figures  Christopher Langdell, Nick Katzenbach and  Thomas Barr Richard Susskind,  Mark Chandler and Fred Bartlit
Second most highly paid person in legal department Head of litigation. Head of legal operations.
“Unit of production” Individual expert. Team.
Rare and high compliment “Ethical.” “Operationally excellent.”

Read Paul's commentary about the above here.


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