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Friday Movie: Disruption in the Legal Industry flows from clients – UPDATED now Entry #13

Disruption, disruption, disruption everywhere. You can’t move these days without law firms and legal IT vendors talking about disruptive innovations however in this LexisNexis Business of Law white board video (which runs under five minutes) Christopher T. Anderson argues that “The debate misses the real point. Disruption does not come from industry. Disruption will not come from law firms. Disruption comes, and is already coming, from our customers.” Chris neatly sums it up in the last sentence “This is not the end of lawyers but it just might be the end of lawyering as we know it.”

Following the popularity of this video, we have decided to enter it in our Legal Industry Video Awards (this will be Entry #13) in Category 5 : Legal or Vendor Informational Video of the Year Award – designed to educate & inform external audiences, such as clients, customers & prospects, on current trends, developments and issues.

Disruption, disruption, disruption everywhere. You can’t move these days without law firms and legal IT vendors talking about disruptive innovations however in this LexisNexis Business of Law white board video (which runs under five minutes) Christopher T. Anderson argues that “The debate misses the real point. Disruption does not come from industry. Disruption will not come from law firms. Disruption comes, and is already coming, from our customers.” Chris neatly sums it up  in the last sentence “This is not the end of lawyers but it just might be the end of lawyering as we know it.”

6 replies on “Friday Movie: Disruption in the Legal Industry flows from clients – UPDATED now Entry #13”

Client behaviour changes, thereafter lawyering as we know it must change.

Maybe the really amazing thing is that people think this is amazing. I don’t wish to sound harsh but what Chris is talking about is simply what is going on elsewhere.

Every disruption is always driven by the disruptor. The disruptor is always, has always, will always be the customer/user..this is not new.

Organisations can create an environment for the disruption to happen in, but they are not the disruptor.

Amazon didn’t close a single library or bookshop. It was you and I. You and I choosing better. Better that was easy, better that had less friction, better that was less costly, better that was relevant to our world.

It’s an interesting talk but I’d raise a few questions.

The models Chris uses are very transactional, very frequent and extremely process driven. I am not sure legal is any of those and this is significant.

Also a book is a book, an mp3 is an mp3 etc etc. The setting up of a business is not quite the same.

So I think what is really going on here and onwards is technology being used as a ‘separation’ tool. Where technology starts to take over process freeing up the lawyer to do intellectual stuff. I can see that happening.

As I keep saying…it is the inefficiency of process that is drowning the value of intellect.

JB

Jon –

Your comment is not harsh at all. It is spot on! (At least the first part.)

As to your point that the allegories are made, I also agree. To a point. Clearly, I wanted to reference things most people would find familiar. I could have talked to medical practices, but the revolutionary things happening there are less familiar.

Where you and I may differ, is that I contend that most (not all) of what goes on in a law firm is also “very transactional, very frequent and [should be] extremely process driven.”

There is art in the value-add, let there be no doubt, and in that there is much less process. But whether you’re doing transactions, estates, criminal, intellectual property, personal injury, real estate, insurance defense, employment law, or what have you, the bulk of the work is process. (80% of setting up a business is exactly the same…)

Disruption is coming because customers are discovering that the process driven aspects of the law can be standardized, unbundled, and offered to them in a better way: faster, cheaper, and more consistently done.

This can have the result of “freeing up” the attorney to do intellectual stuff, as you write. If that’s the only result, much of the other stuff will migrate out of our law firm businesses. If we recognize the disruption, and adapt, however, we stand a chance of being the ones to continue to deliver for our clients. Efficiency will allow the intellect to rise to the top as the true value we offer to them, rather than being “drowned out,” as is presently the case.

Amazon didn’t close down Border’s, as you write. But we can also remember who destroyed IBM… IBM.

Chris hi

First of all thanks for creating a good debate.

Similarly I agree with much of what you say. Can I throw in a few additional tangents? I no longer work in the law firm market so thought I’d chuck them in.

An issue that isn’t frequently talked about but one that I feel is key to any future development for lawyers.

If technology makes the ‘service’ more efficient be that by the lawyer who processes things better or the lawyer delegates aspects of the service to the client to be the data inputter then what do they do with the time that is free-ed up?

It may seem obvious…the time can be used to develop other work, opportunities etc.

But when I have explained this to lawyers my sense is that they are so institutionalised in to working in such a way that for many (although not all) freeing up time is not an option.

(As an aside I wrote about inputters and interpreters last year http://www.legal-two.com/inputter-and-interpreter/)

I suspect, like me, you have experienced lawyers who are shown the future. Shown it not in a ‘computerise or die’ style but in a non threatening way. They totally agree with you but then they go back to the office and carry on as is.

Okay a slight aside but is that the fault of the lawyers or as vendors are we failing in presenting a future that works for all parties? A future that they want to embrace? This is a subject…adoption, or rather the failure of it, that I find fascinating. How often do you here legal tech people talk openly about adoption and usage? Privately yes. In public, hardly ever. It needs to be talked about and explored by both sides in my view to move things forward.

I am not sure work will migrate out to other non law firm organisations, I suspect that work will move….to those law firms that deliver better and relevant. I think the brand, new entrant, ABS arguments are very overplayed and beyond marketing hype there impact is, as yet, unproven. This may change but it could also fail.

Standing here today (I am on a train so apologies for poor grammar and typos) law firms may seem a big ask in terms of the future but in all disruptions I’d never under estimate the power of time and the many a $ has been lost on putting money on the favourite.

In two or three years we could be in a very different place. Fewer law firms? Probably. Better law firms? Definitely.

JB

Totally. When I talk about gaining efficiency, and effectively delegating to do so, I insist that the time saved should be used for two main purposes: marketing / client development and/or working less (i.e. being brighter when you do work.)

And you are dead-right when you say the resistance to doing this is institutionalized in our profession to such a degree that suggesting otherwise can be interpreted as threatening.

I hope that debates like this can help to break through the fear, and show that an “end to lawyering as we know it” can and will be a blessing for those who will see and adapt to changing client demands.

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