10/9/17

Give Me Some Change

Photo by Danielle MacInnes 
Of late, Casey has been posting some excellent material on the high BS factor of law firm marketing. This plus an event I participated in on Friday in NY spurred me on to write a post. However, don't expect this post to be anywhere near as long as Casey's. That man is the Dostoevsky of blog post writing.

Certainly you have read Casey's multi-part series on BS. If not, I highly recommend it. In Part 3 he utilizes questions on change to demonstrate how willing lawyers are to fill in blank spaces even when substantive change is not occurring. This tied my mind back to the event I presented at in NY.

In NY most of the other panelists at the event addressed the need to change and that disruption was here. When it (finally) was my turn to weigh in, I was thoroughly worked up about about how no one actually touched on the heart of change in the legal profession.

Of course the usual topics around change came up: AI, LPM, process improvement, innovation, etc.  But what had not come up was a core change that all of those topics presuppose. Any real change will require lawyers to change the way they practice law.

Let that one sink in for a minute.

Oh ... we'll just start utilizing legal project management at our firm! Right. 

I remember one of my first lawyer conversations around LPM - a few years and firms back. A big-ticket litigator was blathering on about why the firm would have to embrace LPM to remain competitive. I turned the question on him and asked him what he would do when a project manager questioned his overuse of resources on a particular task. His reply: I would tell them to get the hell out of my office. (He actually did not use the word "hell," but that was as much as I thought I could get away with here). That interaction stuck with me over the years.

Another example is when a firm decides it needs to standardize certain documents for select matters. What follows this decision is one to appoint a committee of lawyers to develop the content for this effort. The 'drafting by committee' goes as well as you might suspect.

These examples highlight that the real need for change exists at the lawyer level. And resistance to change is very high there. 

I joked at the NY presentation that I have a two-step process to address this challenge: 1) Education, and 2) Fear. First lawyers need to understand what makes their work profitable. Then when they realize it isn't, they finally have a real motivation to change. But even then, the needed change must be presented at a practical level or nothing will change. 

So my two cents on driving change in the legal profession: Start with the lawyers, then worry about the flavor of change that makes the most sense.

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