Last week I had the fortune of attending two valuable conferences – the Ark-Group KM and the COLPM Futures Conferences. Perhaps the greatest value to me was the back-to-back participation I enjoyed. This merging of ideas and forums lead me to a new epiphany - or more accurately, an expanded epiphany.
At the Ark-Group KM conference, I was co-presenting with my good friend Kingsley Martin. In our presentation he made this point: Law firms focus on high-end documents for analysis. Clients focus on high-volume documents. His point was that clients were finding value not in gaining efficiencies in Bet-the-Farm work, but instead in bread-and-butter (a.k.a. Law Factory) efforts.
At the COLPM conference there were two things I observed, that combined, make that same point from a different perspective. One was comments from a general counsel (GC) about how BigLaw is not listening. The other was a discussion on how big is the middle segment of the legal market. The GC is bringing the bread-and-butter work in-house (by adding staff) since his outside firms were not addressing that need. The discussion on how big is the middle segment was curious, since people seemed uneasy about actually naming the size of the elephant in that room.
Here comes my epiphany ...
The overall size of the market is not growing, or growing very modestly. One stat on this came from another Ark-Group KM presentation. But here is the interesting part - when it comes to the shape of the market, clients have recognized that significant amounts of their work are actually bread-and-butter, in the middle matters. This means the middle of the market is likely growing at the expense of shrinking in the bet-the-farm segment. Or in other words - the overall size of the market is stable, but the shape of it is shifting.
When Ron Friedmann and I posted our Bet-the-Farm versus Law Factory posts a while back, I made the Law Factory argument on the logic that there are too many firms chasing the Bet-the-Farm market segment, making it overly competitive and expensive to chase. This new layer of thinking extends my Law Factory point-of-view, since it argues that bet-the-farm work is shrinking while law factory work is expanding.
For me, this new epiphany further bolsters the Law Factory argument. I understand my thinking is more intuitive than data driven at this point. However, the market continues to highlight clients’ pain which appears to be much more focused on the Factory than on the Farm.
Thoughts on my epiphany?