Image [cc] Ozzie Davis

At the recent (and extremely successful) P3 Conference last week, a comment really stuck in my head. There was a panel on Show Me the Practice Innovation and the final question to the panel was to point out any true innovations in legal services over the past 25 years. The panel included three of the smartest people I know: Kingsley Martin, Keith Lipman and Michael Mills.

The consensus from these big brains: What innovation?

Michael Mills from Neota Logic said online legal research was one innovation, which he acknowledged did improve efficiencies some, but it didn’t really change the core delivery model.

So where am I going with this? Not where you might expect.

Many of the next-generation law firms (and non-law firms) hold themselves out as “innovative” and in fact win awards for said innovation. But when you peel back the covers, where is the innovation? Are they using next generation technologies like Neota and KM Standards? No. Are they building out process maps and reengineering how matters are managed and handled? Not that I can see. Are they employing project management people, principles and tools across the board? Well .. some are using them in document review, but otherwise – not so much.

What they appear to be doing is hiring BigLaw trained lawyers and utilizing significantly lower overhead. Some do it via onsite client secundments. Others do it with less expensive office space. All seem to do it with lower lawyer compensation. But this is merely doing it the same way – only cheaper.

Is this approach a smart idea? Absolutely. Many times I kick myself and Number 1 for not thinking of it first. But is this approach a real transformation to the way legal services are delivered?

Judge for yourself.