I don’t know how I missed it, but last week, Jones Day laid off 65 IT workers.  Most of them were from my home town of Columbus, Ohio. [UPDATE: It appears the bulk of cuts were in Cleveland, not C-bus. Still Buckeyes though. 🙁 ]  As I began reading the article, my first thought was, “I told you.” But as I continued and I read the quotes from Jones Partner, Joe Sims, I started to regret the things I had written.  Had he or anyone at Jones read any of my posts?  Was I in any way influential in this decision?

Of course, that’s completely irrational and extremely arrogant. But still, the thought briefly crossed my mind. The quotes from Sims and Jones Day sound very much like things I have said and written.

“…we concluded we could do it better, faster and more effectively with a reorganized approach, and that reorganization didn’t require so many people.”  

“It’s basically a change from a local, personal touch to a remote-access basis for fixing little problems, and instead of having people literally on the ground…”  

“We have determined that a reorganized technology function will improve both the effectiveness and the cost of our services to clients.”

Shorter Jones Day: We don’t need so many expensive people to run things anymore.

Ouch.

Keep an eye on Jones to see if they quietly start picking up more IT people in the near future.  If they don’t, and they appear to be otherwise successful, then hold on tight, these cuts are coming to a firm near you soon.

But wait, it gets worse for IT people!

Edward Snowden (Hero or Traitor, love him or hate him) has not only drawn attention to nefarious government activities, he’s also drawn a lot of attention to Systems Administrators everywhere. SysAdmins rule the world. We have access to everything.  We can get into your emails, your private files, your super secret extra hidden browser history. And despite the occasional disgruntled outburst from an overworked and underpaid master of the universe, people generally trust us to keep our mouths shut and keep the company’s private information private.  Snowden ripped the poorly tied blindfold off and danced naked atop the NSA’s servers, shouting wildly about all of the confidential and private information stored there (mostly yours and mine).

In response, the New York Times ran an article in yesterday’s paper, asking the question that very few people have asked before now: “Can the I.T. staff be trusted?

Now, knowing what we all know about law firms’ aversion to risk and their lemming-like “follow the guy in front off the cliff” behavior, how do you think this is all adds up?

Image [cc] genvessel

The recent dialog about Procurement’s role in the purchasing of legal services has been nagging at my brain. I wrote a piece for a book on the subject and basically suggested in-house lawyers beat Procurement to the punch. The fallout of that effort was my series on the subject.

But the nagging continued. Over the long weekend the incessant nagging finally triggered a repressed memory. Back in the day when I worked for the Utah State Bar, I would regularly receive calls from friends looking for lawyers. They called me instead of lawyer referral because they wanted a lawyer that came with a personal recommendation. Of course, since most of these were personal and not business related, most of these were for divorces.
I would usually give my friends two or three names, along with my thoughts on why they might chose one lawyer over another. That advice was typically tied to strategy. Did they want a quick and less contentious divorce? Or did they want a pound of flesh from the Ex (a very expensive option)?
The referrals I gave each friend were tied to their situation, but I always ended these conversations with the same advice: “It’s all about Trust.” I suggested they talk with each lawyer and decide how they felt about that person. Of course I was giving them names of people I trusted, but my advice centered on the issue of their trust with a lawyer. Ending a marriage is a very important decision. So each person needs to chose a lawyer they can trust to represent them in this effort. I would repeat my advice, “It’s all about Trust” when ending the call.
So … where is the trust in today’s legal market?
It’s my sense that clients feel the trust was broken. Right or wrong, they feel law firms took advantage of them by raising rates and paying first year associates so much. Since these are two of the primary financial stats they see in the market, they have become a central target of their feelings. One might argue that clients were part of the team that built the escalating rate system. But regardless if that is true, they now harbor feelings of broken trust. So now we see RFPs as a manifestation of those feelings. Rather than directly resolving trust issues, many clients are allowing Procurement to stand-in for them and either drive or significantly influence how legal services are purchased.
Of course it is not fair to focus exclusively on the client-side of the trust equation. Law firms have not only played a primary role, but benefited greatly from the rate escalation world.
Going back to my Utah Bar analogy, the real problem facing the profession is trust. When a client hires a lawyer or firm to represent them, in the great majority of situations, they are placing a significant trust in the lawyers involved to resolve or handle their legal matter.
My point: Procurement is not the best way to address the lack-of-trust issue. Having a third party with its own agenda interrupt the relationship between client and lawyer will only lead to more distrust.
Which brings us back to one of my perennial themes: The Conversation. Trust will be rebuilt when client and lawyer sit down and talk. In those situations trust is almost a by-product. When people meet and share what is really important to them. Each side becomes vested in the other’s success.
So clients – I share with you the advice I gave all of my divorcing friends: It’s all about Trust. If you want good results, including the result of cost savings, you need to make sure you have relationships of trust with your lawyers. Otherwise, you are entrusting ‘just another vendor’ with some of the most important decisions you make for your company.
Go ahead – sit down and talk.

Last night, I had the honour (that is spelled correctly, check Greg’s posting on the CLawbies for more detail) of participating in “Using KITs+1™ in Boosting Your Organization’s Analytical Fitness™ ” presented by Dr. Craig S. Fleisher, Chief Learning Officer/Aurora WDC, to a joint audience of members from the Toronto Chapters of Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals and Special Library Association . This was the first time Dr. Fleisher presented this material, and I can promise you it won’t, nor should it be, his last.

The talk was about the next generation of intelligence analysis – analysis 2.0 if you will and our analytic fitness levels. I won’t recap the entire presentation because I would likely mash it up horribly, but here are five take-aways, musings and thoughts on competitive intelligence (CI) and analysis 2.0 that I am still pondering (note the italics) today. The ability to provide good CI and to really know what your clients (lawyers or otherwise) need is predicated on trust. Studies have shown that it takes 7.3 years to build the kind of trust necessary to be seen as the kind of “trusted business advisor” our clients expect. Um… I knew it took a year to get your “legs” in a firm, but 6.3 more to be trusted?? 

In the last several years, we have seen a significant increase in our data storage capabilities. I carry a 3 gig thumb drive on a key ring for example, but all this data we carry around and have access to has a very short half-life. Why are we storing it beyond its shelf life and/or not using it sooner? 

Analysis 2.0 is about dialogue and discussion – think crowd sourced analysis. This necessary means we, as CI practitioners, will have to recognize our own blind spots and prejudices, right? 

The current CI cycle, no matter how many steps you include, always involves the definition of an issue or a Key Intelligence Topic (KIT), Data Gathering, then Analysis, etc. In the next generation of analysis, we will need to provide real time analytics. Can we do various steps concurrently? Perhaps the answer to real time analysis is more in keeping with the scientific method of stating a hypothesis and then collecting the right data to prove the point – is that CI or just cheating? 

CI practitioners need to develop or maintain a sense of humility about intelligence and recognize that sometimes you will be wrong, and that’s okay. This goes hand in hand with being a trusted advisor. Think of it like the weather man (or woman). Each morning we trust our clothing choices to the forecasted weather. Often the weather person is right, sometimes not, but we rarely lose complete faith because the next morning there we are again, listening for the forecast and choosing outerwear based on what we hear. As the weather people, we have to know that we are trusted even if we are sometimes wrong. And sometimes as creators of intel, we have to realize that experience counts too. Sometimes you just have to step outside and feel the temperature yourself, right? Use your gut and be ok if you are wrong. 

Dr. Fleisher is a dynamic and exciting speaker – he encourages discussion and forces people to think about CI in ways we haven’t yet. He is pushing the envelope and creating new paradigms. Are your analysis skills ready for the workout?

Consider the degree of trust you should have in your auto mechanic. You will probably never know the quality of work before, during and even after you receive it. You have to trust your mechanic’s diagnosis and then trust the quality of service you receive in the repair. It is difficult-to-impossible to truly know anything about its quality. All you can know is that the car wasn’t working properly before and now it is. What was wrong, what was actually repaired and the quality of the repair could remain a mystery to you forever. This is a called a Credence Service.
Recently I was fortunate to hear a presentation from Blane Erwin of Bridgeway Software on the concept of law as a credence service. Blane brought some original thinking to the challenge of valuing legal services. He laid bare the deep level of trust clients have when hiring lawyers. He described how clients must trust their lawyer’s diagnosis of the problem, and that the solution provided was truly needed and effective. In an environment so dependent on trust, how can clients ascertain the real value and therefore fair price of a service?
But here’s the rub – legal services have long been a credence service. So why the crisis now?
The Trust Breakdown
Many in the legal industry feel the trust between lawyers and clients has been damaged, if not broken. You see it in the articles on value billing and those on the various crises in the profession. To sum it up – many clients feel they have been paying too much for legal services and are now flexing their buying muscle to drive down prices. On its face, this situation defines a broken trust.
What I really like about the ‘credence’ concept is that it clearly defines why that trust must exist. And it suggests ways to repair the damage. Blane offered up one potential solution in his presentation. With some luck and time, he may describe that here as a guest post. (Hint, hint – Blane)
I suggest just having a clear picture of the nature of the trust problem will help lawyers improve the way they price and deliver services to their clients. Consider your experiences with your own auto mechanic. What made those experiences positive or negative?
Think about that next time you engage with one of you clients.