Monthly Archives: September 2013

Unbundling Abounding

Two good articles on what’s happening to the “legal industry.”

If nothing else, they make clear that “legal industry” is what we are talking about. How and where the phrase “legal profession” should be used in the future, needs thought (at least by me).

For people in the industry, we must get past labels and over boundaries. Who are we? What do we do? How do we best organize and develop ourselves for that? Hint: the answer will not be the same for everyone. Another hint: get thee not to a consultant. The answer lies within.

Creativity and the Practice of Law

Is what lawyers do “creative”? Recently, I heard a speaker say,that what lawyers do is solve problems and problem solving is creative. Yeah, but maybe that just restates the question.creativity bulb

  • When a person identifies and restates the law applicable to a static set of facts, is that creative?
  • Is legal process management creative?
  • Is counseling clients about possible actions, tactics and strategies in developing circumstances creative?
  • Is advocacy creative?

Do the answers to these questions point to a possible approach to defining “the practice of law,” or at least to dividing lines among types of law practice?

The Art of Thought outlines 4 stages of creativity, which are described at Brain Pickings and also at  Farnam Street, recounted in The Creativity Question, and critiqued in Seeing What Others Don’t: The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insights.

   Stages of creativity or not, they sound like a method of practice for certain types of legal work. The four stages are:

  1. Preparation
  2. Incubation
  3. Illumination
  4. Verification.

The ongoing process of disaggregating certain law work from what lawyers do and giving it to non-lawyers, raises the question: what functions are not susceptible to disaggregation? And also, disaggregation from what? Is a kind of creativity at the core of this?

A New Design Approach to Law Firm Space and Talent

Simple law offxsmath: the two biggest expenses in a (conventional) law firm’s budget are compensation expense and space occupancy expense. After that, there’s IT. Then there’s everything else.

And so, a new economics has come to law office design. Gensler, the International design firm, sees “profound and lasting changes taking hold of the legal industry.” accompanied by “new approaches to designing the legal workplace.”

Gensler’s Research Report, Substance over Status, declares that “economic pressures may have been the impetus for change,” but there has also been “a shift in thinking and a new approach to space and talent is required for the legal workplace to remain nimble and respond to an uncertain future.”

Gensler’s report identifies key findings and catalogues new design principles and practices that characterize the choices being made by leading firms.  Law firms are said to be coming to grips with issues that corporate America has been grappling with for years.

The guiding findings are

  1. Cost is still an issue.
  2. Legal teams are replacing individual stars.
  3. Quality of life concerns are creating multiple attorney tracks.
  4. Firms are spreading out geographically.
  5. Firms are actively seeking workplace innovation.
  6. In the U.S., the private office isn’t going anywhere … at least for now.

But to see the specific design consequences that flow from these findings, you better go look at the report.

“A new approach to space and talent.”

THE CHANGING MODEL OF LEGAL SERVICES DELIVERY IN THE “NEW NORMAL” — Program at UNC

The program described below is a law practice management program that you get CLE credit for — ethics and substance abuse credit. It will focus on the issues that have been discussed in the last 3 or 4 posts here (and many others before those).

If you pursue the materials at the link far enough, you will learn that I am among the speakers. I will not be talking about hummus — nor will Dr. Fredrickson, whose presentation, I think, comprises the substance abuse segment.

Dan K. Moore Program in Ethics

THE CHANGING MODEL OF LEGAL SERVICES DELIVERY IN THE “NEW NORMAL”

The UNC Center for School Leadership Development, Chapel Hill, N.C.

Friday, October 4, 2013, 9:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Registration Now Open

The Dan K. Moore Program in Ethics is a well-regarded continuing legal education program sponsored annually by the UNC School of Law. This important program is dedicated to the exemplary legacy of professional ethics left to us by the distinguished life and work of Dan K. Moore, the esteemed former governor of North Carolina and a 1929 graduate of the UNC School of Law.

This year’s program will discuss the changing demographics of law firms and the implications for training new attorneys. We will examine the expectations of in-house counsel regarding training of their own lawyers and expectations regarding lawyers from firms representing the organization. We will also explore new methods of legal services delivery, including legal process outsourcing. The professional responsibility segment of the program will conclude with a review of issues commonly faced by business lawyers.

We are also fortunate to hear from Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Psychology and author of “Positivity” and “Love 2.0,” on how to reduce stress and enjoy life more fully. Dr. Fredrickson’s scientific contributions have influenced scholars and practitioners worldwide, in disciplines ranging from business to healthcare and beyond. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, The Economist, CNN, NPR, PBS, US News & World Report, USA Today, Oprah Magazine and elsewhere.

This program provides continuing legal education credit, including ethics and substance abuse credit, and is aimed specifically at lawyers who regularly advise corporate clients. Read more about this year’s program.

Registration is Now Open. Have a question? Email us at unclawcle@unc.edu.

Hummus abuse: what a concept.

The Structural Changes that Are Driving Lawyers’ Numbers Down

What are the permanent structural changes that have driven down law firm hiring and law school class sizes? structural changes

Professor Burk says the market has produced new, cheaper ways to do tasks once done by associates in large firms. And, now we can “disaggregate” those tasks from other law-firm-delivered legal services. This gives clients the ability to move that work to lower cost providers. All has been enabled by data processing and other technologies; by instant, remote communications; and by networked providers.

Legal processing.  So, clients with large legal processing needs – document discovery, litigation holds and due diligence (but also loan closings, collections, foreclosures, legal forms) – now have alternatives to hiring law firms who assign that work to associates. Those include:

  • Outsourcing – law firm sends the send the work to an outside contractor.
  • Insourcing – client itself does the work or hires the contractor.
  • Downsourcing – law firm assigns the work to contract lawyers or others who work in the firm but at lower rates than conventional associates.

Costs of training lawyers. Also, training law graduates to practice law in firms is time-consuming and expensive. Traditionally, many large firms financed that training, in effect, by charging clients for associates’ time. As new, technology-enabled economics take hold, law firms are recognizing the value of keeping trained lawyers who may not become practice leaders in their firms. So, more big firms are keeping more lawyers longer – in new categories: non-equity partner, senior attorney, contract attorney. That is, trained lawyers are retained to do work that might once have gone to new associates — thus cutting the need to hire more graduates.

Other structural changes. Professor Burk does not mention explicitly other structural changes that may also have reduced the demand for large firm lawyers. These might include: (i) the expanding role, sophistication and capabilities of in-house legal departments; (ii) expanded multi-jurisdictional and multi-disciplinary commerce and law practices; (iii) competition from new law firm models: boutiques, mono-line firms, virtual firms; and (iv) competition from newly-enabled networks of smaller firms. These are both alternatives to large firms, and also modes of practice that are less dependent on hiring large numbers of new lawyers every season.

Quicker, Better, Cheaper. In short, new technology and shifting market forces are creating opportunities for new ways to deliver legal services and new ways to organize legal services providers. New ways only emerge where they represent improvements: quicker, better, cheaper.

In almost every case, “quicker, better, cheaper” means finding new ways to get more legal work done with fewer lawyers. And that drives down hiring, and law-school applications and class sizes.

The horror! The horror!          horror_animaatjes-44