Rethinking law may well begin with shifting the pain of efficiency back to the law firms. That’s the conclusion of one group of attendees at an ILTACON session titled “Do Less Law: A Contrarian View of the Future” (#ILTA124).
How can law firms:
1. Do what we do now but better?
2. Do what we do now but less intensively?
3. Practice preventative law?
4. Re-think systems and delivery?
Both Messrs. Corcoran and Friedman have previously researched and sketched frameworks for the concept, which served, in part, as the foundation for the session:
- Do Less Law – Redefining Value in the Delivery of Legal Services
- More: “Do Less Law” (also an entire series on “do less law”)
Re-thinking Legal Systems and Service Delivery
In listening to the group that focused on the fourth question – shifting compensation and sharing risk – was the most promising idea for re-thinking the future of law. Other concepts the group debated in getting to that conclusion included:
- The starting point has to be process mapping and process re-engineering
- The entire notion hinges on flat fees to drive efficiency
- Lawyers will engage technologists more often to drive efficiency
- Trial lawyers want to get to trial, but a client might want to settle
- The challenge is attention deficit; our job is to preserve the attention of attorneys
- Technologists need to better understand the role of lawyers
A Short Interview with Bill Henderson
Following the session, we caught up with Bill Henderson, a professor of law at Indiana University and contributing editor to The Legal Whiteboard, who graciously agreed to be interviewed on camera. As an active participant, he explains the idea and the premise succinctly in the short video interview nearby (written transcript below) that lasts just a few minutes:
What is the concept the group developed?
In our conclusion we were trying to rethink the practice of law and we started with the premise that we need to change the fundamental, foundational incentive. We want to shift risk from the corporate client onto the law firms, or at least share it. Once that happens, law firms will lock in their top line revenue and they are going to begin to rethink how they actually provision the work and we think a lot of things are going to fall into place.
The first thing we’re going to do is figure out how to do the work more efficiently, how to staff it with cheaper timekeepers – without compromising quality, we’re going to substitute technology for people, and with all our time savings we’re going to have that time made available to resell other corporate clients.
We thought this first thing, shifting the risk to firms, or sharing the risk, and partnering with clients was the absolute key. But a lot of the other kind of KM and technology solutions are going to come after the fact. Although we’re at ILTA and typically we think a lot about technology, we think these foundational business processes need to be laid first, including getting the incentives right – and then the technology will be layered in almost effortlessly; almost seamlessly.
What are the challenges?
The first thing is moving away from the original legacy system and a lot of people are wedded to it. We had to put the risk factor – getting the firm to agree and a lot of people say it’s impossible – but we need to go down this road. Just agreeing to go forward is where all the risk is.
What does success look like?
There were some people here from some UK law firms – that are fairly far down this road – and here’s what happens: You lock in long term relationships so you’re not worried about losing your customers. You’re managing the margins so you’re plenty profitable. Your lawyers are creative and collaborative and they don’t want to leave your firm. You really move to a sustainable path where you feel you have your clients’ best interests at heart and you can bring in young people and you can train them. This is a highly multi-disciplinary play. At the end of the day, it’s a team-based environment, your lawyers are collaborative, allied professionals on a peer basis.
We just think it’s a win for the client, it’s a win for the owners of the enterprise, and it’s a win for the legal professionals who are going to work in the enterprise.
What is the probability something like this would be implemented in the next 3-5 years?
It’s already implemented in some UK firms, it’s working splendidly. I think firms like Seyfarth, and Littler for sure, Bryan Cave – I don’t want to short-sell any firms – there’s quite a few firms that have started this and they are seeing these early returns, so they’re going to scale that out. It’s definitely going to happen; the probability I’d say, it’s going to be a dominant model, I would say, in 10 years. It will be why are we doing – how far along are we in five years? Well, this is where the market needs to go – we need to be better, faster and cheaper, we can do all three.
See our additional Coverage from ILTACON 2015:
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- 4 Takeaways from the InsideLegal and ILTA Purchasing Survey
- LexisNexis InterAction Unveils Law Firm BD Module
- LexisNexis Launches “Business Edge” Taking Law Firm BD to New Heights
- ILTACON Song: “Lawyers Love Lexis” by Legal Bytes