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Welcome to the Future – the BetterLaw Mantra

May 6, 2014

Mantra ImageIt’s a brave new legal world out there in 2014.  The massive comet called the Great Recession wreaked grievous harm on the traditional legal model.  Sure, you can still find a few Tyrannosaurus Rex firms feasting on a couple of ostrich-head-in-the-sand clients, but you’ll soon find more petrified dinosaur bones than living, breathing, traditional firms billing by the hour.  This is all incredibly good news for ye battered clients, because once this new legal ecosystem shakes out, the focus will be back where it was always supposed to be, on you, the paying client.

All of this crazy change, however, tends to be very confusing and stressful to clients.  Pre-recession, you had one flavor – vanilla – and you only had to decide which brand to choose.  Expensive, or super-expensive.  Now, there’s a whole cornucopia of flavors, many of them exotic and untested.  BigLaw, NewLaw, MicroLaw, TinyLaw, VirtualLaw, Onshore LPO, Offshore LPO, LPM, etc., etc.  For most clients, these 31 flavors of new choices are overwhelming, and perhaps helps explain the slower than expected demise of traditional BigLaw.  Clients know BigLaw has BigProblems, but at least they know what they are going to get, albeit at a really BigPrice.

Enough already.  It’s the 21st Century, for pete’s sake.  There’s a better way, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist, or a Harvard Law grad, to figure this new legal ecosystem out.  You just need to take a few deep breaths, channel your inner Dalai Lama, and repeat the following mantra over and over…

Right people.  Right skills.  Right place.  Right Price.

Done.  Just solved all your legal problems and saved you anywhere from 30-50% on your next year’s legal bills. Time to order one of those cocktails with an umbrella in it and mosey on over to the nearest hammock.

Okay, I can’t take full credit for my shockingly insightful mantra. I might have heard something similar from Liam Brown of Elevate Services here.  No wonder he named his company Elevate.  I can just see him in the lotus position, levitating in enlightenment, as he chants this mantra to needy clients.  Hey, who wouldn’t willingly follow this yogi to India and become one with the legal universe.

Maybe this is all too touchy-feely for the majority of buttoned-down GC’s, so let me translate the mantra into “business-speak”:

The key to the new legal ecosystem will be the disaggregation of steps in the legal system and it’s frictionless reintegration.

Does that help?  That’s the kind of language you can take to the C-suite.  Just make sure you give me credit for the big words.  Wait, what? Liam said that too, in the same book?  Who is this guy?  Professor by day, yogi by night?

Yeah, but don’t BigClients need really BigLaw to handle really BigProblems?  Aren’t all these upstarts too small and green to handle this type of work?  Not according to Mark Harris, the founder of the dinosaur-eating Axiom Law, who has this to say about handling end-to-end sophisticated legal work:

The work [Axiom does] covers a spectrum of sophistication: at the high-end, we are displacing the use of law firms in a given area; at the mid-high/medium point on the spectrum, we are doing work that used to be done by senior company lawyers; and we will also handle the lower-end work if it is a part of the same value chain.  The bigger picture here is that we control and deliver on the ‘end-to-end’ value chain…

The sophistication of what we take on is limited only by a client’s willingness to outsource, rather than by our capabilities.

There you go, your roadmap to 21st Century BetterLaw from a couple of the NewLaw mystics.  Every night before bed, be sure to chant the BetterLaw mantra:  Right people.  Right skills.  Right place.  Right price. Repeat.  Sweet dreams.


*** The book that both Liam Brown and Mark Harris (and many others) are quoted in is “The Rise of Legal Services Outsourcing, Risk and Opportunity,” by Mary Lacity, Andrew Burgess & Leslie Willcocks.






5 Comments leave one →
  1. garyemerson permalink
    May 6, 2014 10:36 am

    Awesome overview of what’s going on in the legal world right now.

  2. John Grimley permalink
    May 7, 2014 6:19 am

    Fantastic post. Every lawyer in the group should read this post and emulate the fundamental business principles Mike outlines a modern law firm ought to have as central to it’s service offer and business plan.

    [Originally posted in LinkedIn group “International Business Development”]

  3. Martin J. Bragg permalink
    May 7, 2014 6:23 am

    Great post. Short pithy and fairly brutal. But very real. Firms need to decide if they want to fight tooth and nail to be the last T-Rex or work smart to find a sustainable place in the new food chain.

    [Originally posted on LinkedIn’s “Status Update” page]

  4. Krystal permalink
    May 7, 2014 6:26 am

    Great post. The legal landscape is certainly changing and that mantra is spot on.

  5. Mark Greenhouse permalink
    May 10, 2014 5:39 am

    “Right people. Right skills. Right place. Right price. Repeat.” – love it.

    The only experience we’d add is “right communication” – too often, outside of law, we see people try this approach and forget that simple daily, face to face, communication is key to keeping the work flowing across the right people and right skills at the right time.

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