|Image [cc] Ed Callow|
I used to joke with Geek #1 about how we could pluck a lawyer from 1985, teach her email and Word, send her to a few CLEs to update her legal knowledge and she would be “good-to-go” to practice law. The point being - the practice of law hasn't changed much in 20 or even 30 years.
As a car guy, I tend to translate legal (or any other) market issues into the market for cars. Recently I purchased an older car for a fun project (‘72 Coupe De Ville if you care to know). Besides sending me back in time, the difference between the Caddy and cars of today is extreme. Cars are WAY nicer, safer, faster, more fuel efficient, more comfortable, .... For those who may want to get a ride in the Caddy, I will make sure to point out the advances in braking technology before you get in.
The main point here is that the value proposition of cars advances every year. Recent advances include things like adaptive cruise control, a/c in the seats, self-parking and lane assist. So price increases are more about increased value than they are about inflation, although inflation does factor in.
So … here’s the trick question: How are lawyers advancing their value every year (to match price increases)? Keeping up on the law doesn’t count. Neither does upgrading your office suite or getting new computers.
But now here’s a better trick question: How much does Efficiency and Effectiveness add to value? Clients are pushing for lower prices, which is ‘‘more for less’ but is that more value?
I am definitely an advocate of utilizing legal project management and approaches like process improvement. But for all these tools provide, they are not designed to increase value. They reduce costs. In my humble opinion, efficiency is not a value enhancer. One might argue effectiveness is, but I see that as semantics. “Effective” is being better at getting desired results. It’s not about getting different results.
Here are some examples to demonstrate the point:
- Instead of securing better litigation results, offer a service to reduce the amount of litigation.
- Or how about a service that organizes client legal content for consistency, to reduce risk.
- Or how about a service that monitors patent filings against a patent portfolio?
- Or how about a service that organizes legal content to streamline acquisitions (for clients in acquisition mode)?
Pondering this topic, one value adding legal example does jump to mind: The Poison Pill Strategy developed by Wachtell. That was a new service that added value. But I struggle to think of others.
Back to cars - Auto makers employ process improvement, project management, new technology (robots), out-sourcing and other tools to lower their cost of production. You might argue some of these efforts that focus on effectiveness add value, such as improved gas mileage. However, value-add does not come from improving efficiencies in production to lower costs. Value add comes from new features, functions and services.
Where are those in legal services?