Does the following resemble anyone you know? “Far too many people—and especially people with high knowledge in one area—are contemptuous of knowledge in other areas or believe that being ‘bright’ is a substitute for knowing.” Peter Drucker’s biting observation is likely familiar to anyone who has spent time working in the legal market. We have an abundance of well-credentialed domain experts with little interest in areas outside their comfort zone no matter how important those areas might be to their success or the success of their organization. Suggestions that legal professionals—lawyers, in particular—should concern themselves with pricing, marketing, technology, project management, etc. are often met with some blend of confusion and disgust.
And so begins another installment of lawyer bashing. But not this time. Or, at least, not yet. I want to thank the Geeks for providing me a platform. I hope to deliver more nuanced thoughts on the legal profession than may have previously been associated with me. When The American Lawyer introduces you to the world with the headline “Big Law Whipped for Poor Tech Training”, it is hard to break out of the mold of inside counsel berating outside counsel—especially when there is some truth to it and playing the big bad is so much fun.
My first couple of posts will serve as an introduction to who I am but also highlight many of the ways in which I have been wrong--the ways in which I was the person described in the Drucker quote above.
I am former BigLaw lawyer turned corporate counsel turned consultant. The reason people might recognize my name is coverage of my tenure in-house where I subjected my outside counsel to what was then called the Legal Technology Audit (now called the Service Delivery Review because the word “audit” makes some people uncomfortable). I visited my law firms to examine how work was handled. The focal point of the review was how the law firms integrated process and technology into the delivery of legal services—rather than substantive legal acumen, a threshold requirement the firms had already satisfied. I investigated hardware, software, project management, document automation, knowledge management, staffing, etc. But training on the basic technology is what got everyone’s attention (including Greg). The Washington Post, for example, was intrigued that (a) someone had the audacity to test legal professionals on their proficiency with common desktop software (e.g., Word, PDF, Excel) and (b) legal professionals fared so poorly. So I became the guy who bashed outside lawyers for not knowing Word, and I relished it.
At a recent meeting with a prominent law firm, one of the partners confessed at the end, “I expected you to have horns.” That’s great fun. But it is also a problem. The big bad persona obscures a more constructive approach to what it means to be sophisticated providers and consumers of legal service. As Connie Brenton of NetApp and I wrote in a recent column, “Law firms are easy targets. But law departments are the largest impediment to change in the legal marketplace. We set the incentives.” An antagonistic posture runs counter to my thoughts on the ways in which inside and outside counsel should collaborate, as well as my evolution on how that collaboration should occur and why it matters. More on that in my next couple of posts.