Recently, there have been a dearth of posts here and elsewhere relating to changing nature of the legal market, none of which are surprising or nor have any of the changes occurred in a vacuum. We've watched the incremental change for years and perhaps now we are just reaching the tipping point for all things legal client service delivery, AI, matter planning & pricing, LPO, LPM and so forth. The neighbourhood is changing and we've lost sight of the ideal location.
It is not surprising that we can't see what's right in front of us. Equal to the talk of the changing legal landscape, is talk of the information overload and how to bring one in line to assist with the other. For example I've posted about the need for better EI, UI, UX and the implementation of "design thinking" in solving legal problems or the problems of legal service delivery. I am a huge proponent of all these concepts. I really am, what I do, is fundamentally about wading through reams of data to paint a pretty picture. Without empathizing with the client and presenting my insights in a visually persuasive format, I have nothing. There is a lot of discussion around data and data source integrity, around choosing the right databases, cutting through clutter and using video or layered graphics to tell the story. For a while now, I have been bothered by the disconnect by what firms think they need to do, what clients say they want and what those of us tasked with making it happen on the business side of law can actually accomplish. We need to bridge the gap. For me that means we need more, better, clearer context.
When we teach information literacy in firms to help our clients navigate our information warehouses from the library, KM, business development, etc. we share what's available, what sources have been vetted and what process are used to share and archive. Rarely do we indicate how the information is used or connected to other sources of intelligence within the firm. When we talk CRM strategy for example, we talk about the need to share contacts for marketing lists not for relationship intelligence and building a unified approach to client service. We talk about what tool to select, how to use the tools, refine workflows, clean and maintain the date but rarely touch on the why. And when we implicitly know the why, we make the assumption that everyone understands the task at hand as fully as we do. The why part of the equation is strategic; part of a bigger whole that not everyone will have access to or understand, but that's the "location" or the context we should strive to own within our firms.
When I look at the list of "must have topics" at the upcoming AALL meeting for example the topics are very important, practical, and necessary but majority of the topics tactical and process driven. Same could be said when I look at the upcoming LMA conference offerings. This makes sense, it is easier to teach someone how to do something than to have a philosophical and often culturally sensitive conversation around the why. Teaching context is not something we can do easily, it's like showing your work when you do a math problem. Sometimes you can draft a number sentence but most of the time it just makes overt sense that 2+2 = 4, don't make me explain it, just take the answer as it is, and consider the task complete. I haven't completely worked it out yet, but solving for and teaching context is a mash-up of design thinking, Gail Fairhurst's concepts of framing against a backdrop of law firm cultural hegemony and the limited agency of allied professionals to turn context into action (though you could draw parallels to other industries as well). As I spend what's left of my morning wading through my daily tasks, I will strive to find the context in each task as it relates to whole, and I encourage you to do the same.