5/29/13

Dan and Jane: Ep. 1 - Stupid BigLaw

Hello! And welcome to the inaugural post of our brand new "Dan and Jane" series here on 3 Geeks.

At a conference recently, a fan mentioned that she missed our old Elephant posts.  We loved getting outside opinions and ideas, but frankly it was a lot of administrative work and we're not really administrative people.  Well... actually, we are administrative people, but only in our day jobs.  We don't want to do it in our free time too.  We'd rather spend our time writing our opinions than cobbling together a whole bunch of different opinions.  So, we've decided to split the difference with our Dan and Jane posts.

These will be the written equivalent of the Ultimate Fighting Championship in the style of Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtain's Saturday Night Live Point/Counter-point sketches.  (Oh, c'mon children. Google it.) We will hit beneath the belt and above the intellect. We will have Dan and Jane tackle big controversial topics that you or we, probably wouldn't write about under our own names.  We have a couple of examples lined up in the next few days, but ultimately, we want you to submit topics and arguments for Dan and Jane to discuss.  Don't worry about being funny or insulting, we will take care of that.  Send us your tired and poor arguments, your huddled whiny complaints yearning to be published.  We'll sufficiently tart them up and put them in Dan and Jane's voice.  And if you want it, we'll even give you full credit.

UPDATE: You can submit topic ideas for Dan and Jane to DandJ3Geeks@gmail.com.

For those of you not wanting to fully enter the Dan and Jane fray - feel free to voice your opinion on whether Dan or Jane wins the day, or if you think they are both completely off point. Leave a comment, or just vote in the box to the right.

Episode One finds Dan and Jane arguing about whether change is possible in BigLaw...

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Image [CC] - Kili
DAN: Listening to everyone harp about how stupid BigLaw is, or even how stupid lawyers are in general, has got me thinking lately. First - I grow tired of hearing about it. Second - we (as an industry) are not that stupid. The industry may be risk-adverse, or even at times fully risk avoiding. However, stupid is not usually on the list. Things HAVE Changed and I have proof.


JANE: Well, Dan, it's about time that you've finally started thinking, but I'm wondering what kind of mushrooms you had on that hemp burger at lunch? Nothing has changed and to my eyes, yes, we ARE that stupid. Richard Susskind has been telling us for fifteen years that the legal world was changing and warning that we had to adapt, but still many firms are following the path so deftly blazed by Dewey and Howrey.  Whatever "change" you're about to pull out of your butt wouldn't buy you a cup of coffee.

DAN: Too bad we're not checking yours for change, Jane, I could probably buy a Buick.  Lawyers are adapting.  Admittedly, not in big ways yet. However, they are absolutely changing the way they deliver their services. Some of these changes are due to direct client demands (ala no first year associates). Others are being embraced much more directly, in response to market demands. It’s good ole market forces in action.

JANE: Lawyers couldn't find a market if they wanted to buy tomatoes. The only forces "in action" are the "Oh $#&!, they're going to dump me if I don't cut my rates" forces.

DAN:  As usual, you're as wrong as you are ugly, Jane.  More and more lawyers are creating budgets for matters. Some (or likely many) of these are simple, high level budgets, but they are budgets nonetheless. Five years ago - not so much. And these budgets are starting to matter more and more, even when they are only internal targets.

JANE: Budgets?! Budgets!!  That's your freaking change? Lawyers finally start doing something every seventh grader learned to do in Home Economics and you're ready to throw a doo-dah parade.

DAN:  I AM about to start throwing something... Also, staffing of matters is MUCH tighter. In part based on client demands, but also driven by budgets, lawyers are limiting the number of people billing on each matter. 

JANE: No longer billing for the janitor's time, huh?

DAN: This approach drives cost savings and drives some minimal project management. With a limited number of team members, it means resources have to be allocated more thoughtfully.

JANE: No more "matter parties", where every associate in the office gets drunk and naked and bills a couple of hours to the client they pull out of a hat.

DAN: Look, you smarmy little cynic, perhaps it’s not full-on project management, but it is a greater focus on managing to budgets. And that IS a definite change from the way they used to do things.

JANE: You...

DAN: Will you shut the heck up and let me finish!  Lastly, there is much more interest in new technologies. Prior to 2007 any technology that cut the number of hours on a matter was not very popular. Now, there is a clamor for these types of tools. Admittedly there is limited adoption, but the mere fact that opinion has swung around so hard is a sign of change.

JANE: I'll tell you what's swinging around hard... The idea that this interest in new technologies is in any way related to a real change in the mindset of lawyers. The only thing driving new legal technology is the iPad. You just try selling a new time-saving project management tool that doesn't have an iPad app.

DAN: Jane, you ignorant sludge monger. That is simply not true.  There is real change going on and I am seeing it at all levels of the market. Just last week I heard about a small firm (20 or so lawyers) utilizing AFAs and efficiency approaches. Granted, much of this change is a refinement of the old way of doing things.

JANE: Much of this change is masking the old way of doing things.

DAN: I still think the legal market needs to embrace deeper, more structural changes. However, to say lawyers are stupid and not changing is missing the real picture.

JANE: Dan, PEOPLE are stupid and you've just proven it. To the extent that lawyers are people...well.

DAN: Change is occurring!

JANE:  Whatever.

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5 comments:

lasthonestlawyer said...

This one is easy. Jane took Dan behind the proverbial woodshed.

I know of a small firm that will give you a fixed value-based price up front (even for complex litigation) and then guarantee that rate, i.e, the client can pay any portion they see fit. I doubt Dan has ever done that, nor could do it. And this small firm regularly eats the biggest of BigLaw for lunch.

Look forward to this series, Geeks.

Larry Bridgesmith said...

I don't believe the question is about stupid or smart. "We can't know what we don't know." The Dunning-Kruger effect is a cornerstone of behavior change. If I have only experienced success coming from a single point of reference or experience base, it is physiologically impossible for me to imagine a different reality. We are no less prone to the limitation on our thinking regardless of our IQ or degree achievement. Doctors and lawyers have the same limitation as police officers or mechanics. We didn't know how to try a case or manage a merger before we attempted to do it. We learned by trying, failing, succeeding and improving as we learned the skills necessary. It is no less possible for BigLaw lawyers to change when "the pain of change is more attractive than the pain of staying the same." Some are, some won't and many will be forced to. C'mon in, the water's fine.

lasthonestlawyer said...

Larry, the real reason that BigLaw doesn't want to change is that the status quo was very, very, good to them. Many of the rather obvious and much needed change, like LPM and LPO, directly attack an area they have been ruthlessly exploiting. We all know that much of the work done by high-priced lawyers can be done equally well, if not better, by other far lower-priced timekeepers. It finally appears that BigCompany has now seen the light - or at least the leading edge of BigCompany. BigLaw will not have a choice in the matter - and most are likely far to slow to adapt.

Susan Hackett said...

What's all this I hear about "Stupid FigLaw?" Is everyone who's just to cover the nasty bits of law firms with fig leaves going to be called Stupid? Rather than trashing such noble crusaders, why can't we simply agree that no one wants to see - nonetheless talk about - that kind of filth. I think whomever fights to cover up indecent law firm exposure deserves an award ... so stop calling them "stupid."

What? Wait - you mean it's BigLaw and not FigLaw? Oh. Well.

Never Mind.

Sincerely, Miss Emily Litella

MacDowell Law said...

But..."stupid"? Having a JD means nothing these days? ;) So the Huffpo articles are true.

Looks like its time to change careers

 

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