In The end of inevitability Jordan Furlong challenges the legal profession to think about its future. In a few short paragraphs he identifies the key issues that will shape how law is practised in the future. And it is not just that there are profound changes happening in the relationship between lawyers and their clients, but that it seems most lawyers are simply not aware of them.
It is a sobering post. For Furlong, it is that almost complete lack of awareness of the legal profession that is the real issue,
The one thing that concerns me most, as an observer of the extraordinary change in this marketplace, is that the majority of the profession has no idea what’s coming. Most of the lawyers with whom I’ve dealt over the past several years simply can’t envision a world where lawyers aren’t considered essential to the social and economic fabric. They might recognize that times are tougher and costs are rising and prices have topped out and clients are more demanding. They might be resentfully aware that providers outside the profession are entering the market with lower-price offerings, and they might grudgingly accept that technology allows things to be done faster and cheaper than they used to be. But they’re not putting it all together. They’re not following this road to its conclusion, because they can’t really see how the world could get along without us. The inevitably of lawyers is our fundamental precept, and it has become a mental block.
This is as true in the United Kingdom as it is in North America.
It is certainly difficult in the hurly-burly of practice to take time out to think about what we need to change to stay in the market; and the very fact that we are busy is itself a problem, because it allows us to think that things are, after all, OK: change is not something any of us are that eager to rush into. But choosing to ignore the problem won’t make it go away, and the clock is ticking. And just as Furlong ends his post, ” Lawyers should know better than anyone else what a ticking clock sounds like.”
Somewhat off piste, but in his post The fickle finger of fate earlier today, Matthew Taylor (RSA’s Chief Executive) concludes with the following, with which, I expect, most of us (reluctantly) will agree (taken froman argument developed by Dan Gilbert in Stumbling into Happiness ):
We systematically exaggerate both the control we have over our own life course, and our own talents in comparison with other people. So, we have an inbuilt tendency to believe that good things in our life are the consequence of our own talents and actions while bad things are the result of misfortune.
Lawyers are no different to anyone else.
An excellent email in my in box this morning from Edge International, with their Law Firm Strategy Newsletter. The topic? The Strategy Executioner (or, to paraphrase the opening, 10 easy ways to ensure that your law firm’s strategy never sees the light of day). You will need to subscribe to the Newsletter and visit Edge International’s website for more (their RSS feed is not great) but good reading, and a very telling conclusion,
The sad truth, though, is that much strategy fails because of simple neglect rather than active sabotage.
My current transaction has been brightened (is that the right word?) by this email exchange. The context is the tabling of documents at the completion board meeting, and how to record this in the minutes.
Me: documents are usually “produced to the meeting” not “reproduced to the meeting”.
Reply: the documents were produced at minute 4 and are merely produced a second time when being considered individually (hence “reproduced”).
You couldn’t make it up if you tried!
More posts in the world of blawgs, particularly Never mind the billables by Jordan Furlong in Law 21, following the article Killable hour in the latest Economist. Regular readers of this blog will know that selling time is one of my pet hates.
Furlong puts it very well in his post,
Your client doesn’t care how much profit you make for yourself; the client only cares that you delivered excellent value in a cost-effective (to the client) manner. How you bill your services is between you and your client; how much it costs you to deliver those services has to be your number-one business priority.
Selling time is the antithesis of selling value. Read Stefan Stern’s article Focus on value or pay the price in the FT (now some three months old). I liked his closing paragraph,
But for most businesses protecting margins in the next few months is going to prove extremely difficult. Cynics, Oscar Wilde once said, know “the price of everything but the value of nothing”. You know things are tough when the cynics don’t know the price either.