“You’re Such a Tool!”…and Other Compliments Your Lawyer Might Appreciate.

Legal Services in the (Same Old) New Economy

Each year a proliferation of new spins on legal services emerges, ranging from high-tech to simple.  Many are focused on making the practice of law more efficient and accessible (typically on the provider side), while others take a different approach, offering to “democratize” law through new tools for legal consumers (mainly on the purchaser side).  Regardless of their approach, few of these developments are truly new.  Law firms and practitioners struggle every day with that alien concept of applying modern “business model” principles to the time weathered honored practice of law.  But if you thought that deconstructing the billable hour model would be easy in the New Economy, you’d be mistaken.  It’s not like it hasn’t been tried.  It’s just harder than it should be.  Change is difficult, especially in the legal business.

Legal Efficiency

Do you see a cost-effective use of technology here, or a $3,000/hour nightmare?

That’s not to say that innovations in the practice of law and the delivery of legal services aren’t effective.  The greater legal marketplace is simply too large, too old-fashioned established and too fragmented to adopt (much less adapt to) novel practices and technologies en masse.  That means that there are few opportunities for any “Killer Apps” or “disruptive” developments to dramatically transform the market and turn the legal industry on its ass head. Howevever, there are always opportunities for users and providers of legal services to tap new practices and technologies and “outpace the market”, yielding better outcomes for both providers and clients in the process, where even incremental innovations can have dramatic results.

Whether rooted in improved technology, practice or administration, successful application of new innovations to legal services fundamentally comes down to providing better service with efficiency and effectiveness.  As tired and trite as the old “win-win” phrase is, it absolutely applies to situations where lawyers and clients can find common ground through practice innovations that cut wasted effort and time for the practitioners and improve costs, administration and outcomes for the clients.  Though you probably won’t believe it, your lawyer or law firm would really like to prove themselves to be a trusted advisor, a vital team member, a value-add resource, or even, a tool.

We’ll take a critical look at these developments to separate the trends from the innovations, and assess whether the promised benefits are real or illusory.  In upcoming posts we will explore new service models applied across the entire vacuum universe of the legal marketplace (including flat-/fixed-fee billing, legal extranets, document automation and outsourcing), and look forward to your thoughts and feedback.  Let us know your experiences with any new-fangled legal innovations.  They don’t have to be recent.  Chances are they are older than you realize.

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