The corporate segment of the legal marketplace is a buyer’s market, and they are driving change. Legal consumers were once content to proscribe cost-controls including discounts, staffing limitations, “most favored nation” rates, and travel. That was followed by more aggressive steps including variations on fixed-fee arrangements, requests for proposals (RFP’s), firm compression, and other competitive processes. Since the financial crisis of 2007, disaggregation of ‘legal’ tasks—peeling functions away from law firms and sourcing them elsewhere—has increased dramatically in volume and complexity. ALM’s recently released Intelligence Report revealed that 73% of corporate legal work is now performed in-house with another 2%–and growing—sourced to legal service providers. The service provider (read: non-law firm) percentage would be considerably higher were it to include legal operations (legal ops) in corporate legal departments. [Read more…]
Gina Passarella’s recent article, “Talking Business of Law: The Dance Around Change,” explores whether the long static legal industry is undergoing real change or simply dancing around it. The analysis emanates from her attendance at a panel discussion on law firm innovation hosted by an international firm. Let’s put aside the irony of a law firm hosting such a discussion and return to Ms. Passarella’s article and its somewhat halting conclusion that legal change is real even if incremental. [Read more…]
‘Culture’ describes the values, philosophy, shared objectives, and interactions—internal and external– of its members. Corporate culture, at its best, aligns the interests of the enterprise with customers and imbues workers with a collective mindset. That is crucial to brand building and market differentiation. Legal culture is something quite different.
Legal Culture Is All About Lawyers
Legal culture was forged by white, middle-aged lawyers for their peer group. Law’s ethos is insular and its composition is homogeneous. That is manifest pre- and post-licensure. Legal culture is rigid, hierarchical, pedigree-centric, internally-focused, cautious, reactive, and rewards input, not output. It relies on self-regulation to preserve the status quo and to guard against outside competition. [Read more…]
The most accomplished lawyers are those that become ‘trusted advisers’ to clients. That means their counsel is sought not only for discrete cases but also on an enterprise basis—and not just for ‘legal’ matters. The trusted adviser has a profound understanding of the client’s business and provides professional judgment, emotional intelligence, candor, and experience tailored to the client’s risk tolerance, enterprise objectives, and company DNA. That’s a far cry from simply ‘knowing the law’ or ‘handling a case.’ [Read more…]
Until recently, lawyers needed just a few tools to ply their trade—legal knowledge, licensure, and clients. Good ones had a fuller kit—specialized skills and/or expertise, oratorical and writing proficiency, and a combination of intellectual and people smarts that elevated their client standing from lawyer to trusted adviser.
‘Innovation’ and ‘disruption’ are the legal industry’s favorite terms these days. Articles and conferences on ‘legal innovation’ and ‘disruption’–whether, when, how, and by whom—are legion. Pinpointing when disruption will occur is as unpredictable as an Amtrak train’s arrival. As Yogi said, ‘it’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.’ Another way to chart the industry’s future is to consider whether the traditional partnership model law firms are becoming obsolete and, if so, what will replace them? That does not require a crystal ball or a Ouija board; a growing body of evidence points to advancing obsolescence of the incumbent partnership model. The structural and operational characteristics of its replacement are now identifiable–even if its dominant players have yet to be determined. [Read more…]