This is the fifth in a series of posts about the New Faces of the Law Firm Competitive Landscape.
The next emerging face of the legal industry is the efficient law firm.
These are firms that recognize that even the most complex legal matters have aspects that are routine and can often be standardized. They recognize that with very little exception, price matters to their clients. And they realize if they can’t tangibly demonstrate how they control costs that their clients will find someone who can.
Those factors alone are driving them to rethink the delivery of legal services to lower overall costs and provide greater value to clients.
It’s apropos to be writing this post upon my return from Legal Tech NYC and the New York Revinvent Law Conference. Both events highlighted at least two ways in which technology is changing the practices of law: 1) How lawyers deliver legal services and 2) How clients access legal information. Although related, these are distinct concepts in that more users of legal services are opting to address their needs without involving lawyers in the first place.
Although this may sound ominous, it does prevent an opportunity for firms outside the “ultra profitables” to reach a market that has need for their services but is not currently a buyer. Improving the way lawyers practice by integrating automation, work process and technology creates this opportunity. Contrary to the idea that technology will replace lawyers, early evidence suggests that firms that can work efficiently and effectively will get a greater share of legal work. Standardization also brings the opportunity for law firms to measure costs and develop business models that drive profitability rather than revenues. This opens new doors for lawyers to charge less, add more value AND make more money at the same time.
Unfortunately the gap in thinking between the Reinvent Law movement and lawyers who grew up under the billable hour model remains wide. Too many lawyers still equate efficiency with a cannibalization of their practice. I’m hoping more lawyers will buy into the concept that lawyers + technology yields greater value than either lawyers or technology alone.
Put another way — as Martin Schwimmer of Leason Ellis LLP did so eloquently as he concluded his Reinvent Law presentation, The Law of Shapes to Come — “Software can’t do the shit I do.”