Does your law firm need an innovation team?

Parfois les projets de marketing et de business développement chez nos clients avocats n’aboutissent pas, ou ne décollent même pas. La mise en place d’un vrai marketing est une innovation, et, comme souvent la résistance au changement est importante, les choses bloquent.
Nos clients demandent donc d’aller plus loin et de les accompagner dans la mise en place du changement et de l’innovation. Dans ce contexte l’article de Jessica Lim, publié au début de l’année dans LegalBusinesworld, nous parait intéressant.

There’s a lot of hype out there about innovation. Innovation-related roles, teams and events are on the rise as are articles, conferences and education programs. But is this really necessary? If you don’t have an innovation group, should you create one? If you have one, should you keep it? And why?

To answer these questions, I referred back to literature by strategy and innovation thought leaders and interviewed a small population of senior legal industry professionals from around the globe. None are strategy or innovation consultants or have innovation in their title. I was on a mission to gather objective views from people who understand this space. And, conveniently, the end result of this research would also help to influence the path for the Lencnzer Slaght Innovation Hive.

This article is focused on whether law firms need some form of an innovation team, what we mean by innovation and the rationale behind the answer. It does not aim to address the questions that naturally follow, which are typically centered around how the innovation team can realize its purpose. That is a whole other topic.

Yes, you need some form of an innovation team
Unanimously, the answer was that you do need some form of innovation team, whether you use those two words or not. You need resources committed to this aspect of running a business. As Peter Drucker put it:

« There is only one valid definition of business purpose: to create a customer. And because its purpose is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only these two – basic functions: marketing and innovation.”

There are rare firms that don’t need to strike an innovation team because it’s in their DNA. They’ve been the first-movers for years and often started with focus on areas such as project management and process improvement, applying ideas typically only seen in the corporate world.

Angela Tancock, Chief Strategy Officer at Norton Rose Fulbright, made a good point: “The days of doing innovation off the side of your desk in addition to your day job are over. You won’t truly move the needle unless you have individuals doing this as a full-time job – the market is simply moving too quickly. Firms can’t stay on top of developments if they don’t have a role focused on this. Someone needs to connect all the dots. That takes time and thinking, and it can’t be accidental.”

Norm Letalik, involved in the Canadian Bar Association Futures project and former Volkswagen Group Canada GC, commented: “Absolutely, law firms should be investing a lot more in innovation – it’s an important area. In my experience MPs spend 80% of time putting out fires.” Although, to be fair, spending too much time in fire-fighting mode is a global phenomenon.

Before we carry on, we should clarify the definition of innovation.

Innovation is about your firm’s renewal and creating value by changing
Globally and across all industries the definition and scope of innovation varies. This was further reinforced when, in the two most recent meetings of the Toronto Law Firm Innovation Group, this became a topic of discussion. So, let’s take a look at some definitions and confirm what we mean here.

Consider these definitions of innovation:

• “The introduction of something new.” – Merriam-Webster
• “The effort to create purposeful, focused change in an enterprise’s economic or social potential.”- Peter F. Drucker
• “The creation of substantial new value for customers and the firm by creatively changing one or more dimensions of the business system.” – MIT Sloan, 2006, Mohanbir Sawhney, Robert C. Wolcott and Inigo Arroniz
• “To “innovate” means to “regenerate” — and most companies decline or fail because they fail to regenerate.” – Randall S. Wright

Regenerate sounds a little too Doctor Who, so let’s go with “renew,” which was inspired by a law firm strategist on another continent who shared her view that “to innovate is to adapt in the face of change.”

With that in mind, I’m suggesting that innovation is about renewing your firm by creating something new and of value internally or for your clients by changing some aspect of the firm.

Now let’s clarify the scope of what an innovation team should consider focusing on.

Your scope should be broad and holistic
Particularly in the legal sector, the focus of innovation teams differs among firms and – at least on the surface – is often quite narrow and limited to technology projects, client-facing processes or perhaps internal business processes, including matter pricing.

I favour the broad, holistic – albeit amorphous – definition to ensure we keep an open mind to opportunities. Otherwise, it’s easy to gravitate towards internal processes only or to abandon innovation because it sounds like something only the Apples, Amazons and Big Law giants can and should do.

My recommendation is to consider internal and client-facing processes, products/services and business models.

The end results can be big or small
Innovation includes a mixture of the small and incremental as well as the big and radical. Or at the rare, but not impossible, end: disruptive.

Cynics may look at the small changes from formal or informal innovation teams and dismiss them as obvious, claiming that you don’t need an innovation group to do that. But, as Peter Drucker suggests, the greatest praise an innovation can receive is for people to say, “This is obvious! Why didn’t I think of it? It’s so simple!” Further, effective innovations start small. They are not grandiose.

Law firms are gold mines for the small and obvious right now, and that’s okay. You have to start somewhere, and these little changes can help firms lay the foundation and open the door for radical changes that may be considered in future. So, make those changes, celebrate and keep going.

Now that we’ve established what we mean by innovation, let’s go back and look at why a law firm should have some form of innovation.

Law firms need innovation to maintain or grow their positions in the marketplace
Like every business in every industry, law firms do require innovation if they want to retain their current positions or aspire to grow. Until recent years, law firms could get by without business renewal because few, if any, had resources dedicated to some form of innovation. With more and more law firms now building their capabilities and trying new things, those standing still will fall behind.

Small and niche firms also require some form of innovation
At innovation-related events, where I’m surrounded by senior Big Law professionals, I’ve been asked why a leading corporate litigation firm is interested in innovation. What are we looking to get out of it? My answer is that we’re there for the same reason: we need to continually focus on renewing the firm; if we stand still, we fall behind.

As Jim Hannigan, Senior Manager of Product Development and Project Management at Allen Matkins, pointed out “Every business needs to evaluate at what level it wants to commit to innovation and change initiatives, and dedicate resources as necessary; the key is assigning ownership and responsibility.”

Kelli Wight, Chief Operating Officer at Koskie Minsky, brings the small firm perspective and agrees, adding that “it is what all firms need to do, regardless of size. But there are obvious challenges to innovating in a small firm. Resources are limited, so you have to be so much more laser focused on setting priorities that have the most positive impact on driving your long-term strategy. You don’t have the time, people or money to do everything, so choose wisely so you can implement well.”

Small firms have fewer resources and infrastructure and sometimes less opportunity to innovate, particularly when the work is more bespoke, as it is where I work. But there are probably many changes that could be made, even if internal only, that would save people at the firm time, enable them to focus on higher value work and pass that value on to the client in the form of better service, better work product or reduced cost. These are the incremental changes.

We certainly have a long list of changes we are working on. And with small firms being more agile and having the ability to move more quickly, the challenge has become not figuring out what to change but having enough resources, managing the change fatigue and – at the same time – being patient with how long these changes take.

A diverse, focused and persistent team must be committed
It will not be sufficient to create an innovation team comprised only of full-time fee earners doing it part-time. They will never make the time needed. They will not have the time to attend many of the meetings and they will too often show up without their undivided attention. As Carla Swansburg, Vice President & General Manager at Epiq, points out, “these groups need someone looking externally and identifying opportunities observed in markets, competitors, clients, technology and the future. They also need someone evaluating ideas.” That requires time and commitment.

Another issue with the all-lawyer team is the broken twig analogy, as coined by Toby Brown, Chief Practice Management Officer at Perkins Coie: a homogenous group of lawyers are likely to go around the table on any topic then decide why the firm should do nothing after they find every flaw possible, like spotting a broken twig on a tree branch and declaring the tree dead.

As talented and knowledgeable as lawyers are, that is simply not enough to build and maintain momentum. Non-billable resources must also be committed.

Again, Peter Drucker stated it best: “What innovation requires is hard, focused, purposeful work. If diligence, persistence, and commitment are lacking, talent, ingenuity, and knowledge are of no avail.”

The innovation team also needs to be diverse. And by diverse I’m not just referring to gender and race; I am also referring to age and vocation. It should include those involved in a firm’s technology, strategy, knowledge management, process improvement and marketing and business development functions. They all bring different skill sets, knowledge and perspectives that, with the right people and format, will result in a stronger team and better ideas.

Every business should be committing to some form of innovation and dedicating a diverse team of people who, together, are able to focus internally and on clients, look outwards and ahead, and evaluate ideas.

At Lenczner Slaght, we have proudly headed down that path with the creation of our Innovation Hive, a diverse and focused team committed to purposeful change and with keen, strong support of firm management.

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Saisir les opportunités d’innovation dans le marché juridique

La « disruption » dans le barreau : comment l’aborder?

Quand je donne des formations à des avocats ou quand j’anime des ateliers dans des cabinets, je demande souvent aux participants qui, parmi eux, réserve ses voyages sur ou Tripadvisor. Le constat est généralement le même : ils utilisent, pour une grande majorité d’entre eux, ces services en ligne. Si je leur demande ensuite qui fait encore appel à une agence de voyages classique, seules quelques mains se lèvent.

À l’inverse de nombreux autres secteurs, le barreau est encore largement épargné par la concurrence disruptive en ligne. Les consciences commencent à se réveiller : cette exception ne sera pas éternelle.

Toutes les menaces sont pourtant des opportunités. Lorsqu’ils réalisent des analyses SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats), la plupart des gens parviennent plus facilement à citer des menaces que des opportunités. Un exercice très enrichissant consiste, dès lors, à chercher des opportunités au départ des menaces.
En ce sens, un monde de menaces recèle des opportunités en masse. Bien plus de cabinets pourraient cependant encore procéder à de vrais changements.

Les obstacles au changement dans le barreau

Il y a un an, j’abordais, sur ce même blog, l’ouvrage de Jaap Bosman : « Death of a law firm ». L’auteur y explique pourquoi les cabinets juridiques éprouvent autant de difficultés à se préparer à l’avenir. Bosman évolue dans le biotope des grands cabinets organisés à l’échelle internationale, mais son analyse s’applique tout autant aux petits et aux moyens cabinets à l’échelon local.

La focalisation sur les détails, la crainte du risque et la méfiance sont quelques-unes des caractéristiques des bons avocats. Mais des caractéristiques qui sont parfois des obstacles quand il s’agit de poser des choix stratégiques clairs et de faire preuve d’orientation client. Pour connaître toutes les raisons invoquées par Bosman, je vous suggère de lire l’article en question ou, évidemment, le livre « Death of a law firm ».

Choisir est difficile…

Je ne cesse de répéter à mes clients que le marketing doit absolument s’appuyer sur une stratégie bien définie. Or, définir une stratégie nécessite de faire des choix. Et choisir est difficile. Faire un choix implique, par définition, de prendre des risques. La difficulté à choisir ne se limite pas aux avocats, mais la crainte du risque chez grand nombre d’avocats rend la définition de stratégies encore plus difficile au barreau.

KnowtoGrow a pour vocation d’aider les cabinets à faire des choix. Une activité passionnante.

… mais mettre ses choix en pratique l’est encore plus.

Quand un cabinet fait des choix clairs, cela ne veut pas dire qu’ils sont automatiquement mis en pratique.
Pour un consultant, il est parfois frustrant de constater à quel point les choix initiaux sont revus à la baisse lorsqu’ils doivent être mis en œuvre. Les cabinets ne convertissent pas leurs points forts relatifs en positions de force imprenables, mais se complaisent à répartir leurs ressources limitées, leur attention et leur énergie sur un large éventail de marchés et de services, sans approche différentielle.

Réinventez votre cabinet

Les tentatives d’innovation dans les organisations échouent rarement pendant la phase de développement d’une vision et d’un plan, mais généralement au moment de la mise en œuvre.

En règle (presque) générale, on constate que 15 % des gens aiment jouer les pionniers, 70 % préfèrent adopter une politique de temporisation et les 15 % restants font opposition. Si ces pourcentages sont répartis de manière égale entre les différents niveaux de pouvoir, les tendances s’équilibrent et, finalement, presque rien ne change à cause de l’inertie.

L’innovation ne va pas de soi. Pour qu’elle porte ses fruits, toutes les parties prenantes doivent être incluses dans le processus, ce qui demande du temps et de l’énergie. Or, la structure organisationnelle des cabinets juridiques est telle qu’ils éprouvent des difficultés à libérer le temps et l’énergie nécessaires pour innover avec résultat. Ceux qui se sont déjà engagés sur cette voie, profiteront toutefois d’un énorme avantage concurrentiel.

L’embarras du choix

L’évolution des attentes des clients, les possibilités offertes par la technologie pour améliorer le service, la réglementation toujours plus vaste, le grand nombre de justiciables en quête de conseils abordables, les nouvelles plateformes de communication… Autant d’opportunités à côté desquelles le barreau passe encore trop souvent.
Certains cabinets, qui abordent délibérément la question de l’innovation, se heurtent à l’inertie naturelle inhérente à chaque organisation.

C’est pour répondre à la demande de ces clients et les accompagner dans leurs parcours d’innovation qu’Align Coaching (Anne-laure Losseau) et KnowtoGrow (Ben Houdmont) ont uni leurs forces. Vous souhaitez en savoir plus sur notre approche et nos références ? N’hésitez pas à nous contacter, sans engagement (Ben Houdmont : 0495 58 76 47 — Anne Laure Losseau : 0486 30 82 26).

Aborder la « disruption » dans le barreau

Toutes les menaces sont des opportunités. Identifier les opportunités pour votre cabinet n’est certes pas chose aisée, mais ce n’est pas la principale difficulté. Le vrai défi consiste à faire en sorte que votre cabinet saisisse ces occasions avec succès.

L’innovation peut se faire à grande échelle (par ex. : réorientation stratégique du cabinet) ou à petite échelle (par ex. : amélioration de l’accueil des nouveaux clients). Pourtant, sans accompagnement actif, les meilleures intentions du monde se heurteront invariablement aux écueils exposés ci-dessus.

Les agences de voyages classiques existent encore et ont toujours une valeur ajoutée pour leurs clients. Certaines d’entre elles sont devenues des agences « de niche », spécialisées dans des destinations ou des types de voyage spécifiques. D’autres offrent à leurs clients un service personnalisé incomparable, une expérience utilisateur exceptionnelle, ou ont développé des produits que personne d’autre ne propose.

Ces agences de voyages se sont donc « réinventées ». Et les meilleures le font en permanence. Elles cherchent constamment à savoir ce que veulent leurs clients et adaptent leur service pour répondre à ces attentes. Pas de grandes révolutions, donc, mais un processus continu. Pour elles, le fait d’évoluer et de s’améliorer est devenu une seconde nature. Ces agences conservent une valeur ajoutée pour leurs clients et une longueur d’avance sur leurs concurrents. Quelques cabinets juridiques se sont déjà lancés dans ce processus d’évolution continue. Un must, s’ils veulent survivre sur le long terme. Les opportunités de se réinventer, pour grandir dans l’environnement certes complexe, mais prometteur d’aujourd’hui, ne manquent pas.
Nous sommes là pour vous accompagner dans cette démarche. N’hésitez pas à nous contacter. (Ben Houdmont : 0495 58 76 47 — Anne Laure Losseau : 0486 30 82 26).

Business development Générale Organisation Relation client Stratégie

L’avocat libéré !

Le développement des équipes, le partage de la connaissance, l’intelligence collective et le collaboratif deviennent les mots d’ordre du cabinet libéré.
Pour les avocats, s’intéresser à l’innovation, pas seulement technologique, mais aussi économique, managériale et sociétale, est un préalable à la nécessaire transformation pour assurer la pérennité de la profession dans ce qu’elle a d’essentiel : défendre et conseiller l’humain.

Cette article fût publié sur Le village de la justice

L’avenir est-il aux robots ?

50% des tâches des avocats juniors sont automatisables. 52% des juristes d’entreprise veulent des solutions numériques. 85% des clients estiment que leurs avocats sont trop chers. L’avenir est-il aux robots ?
Tout va extrêmement vite. La croissance exponentielle du volume de données, les capacités de stockage, la vitesse des ordinateurs et des transmissions, la puissance des algorithmes, la multiplication des legal start up donnent le tournis.

L’intelligence artificielle ouvre des perspectives de gestion automatisée des données (data mining), d’interaction vocale avec l’ordinateur (chabots), de gestion intelligente et apprenante de la connaissance (maching learning). Au-delà des mots, les nouveaux outils comprennent les concepts et bientôt les idées, un jour peut-être les émotions. Ils vont pouvoir donner des consultations juridiques en ligne. Les robots Ross et Peter en sont les 1ers avatars.

Les nouveaux consommateurs du droit

Dans ce monde en mutation rapide, ces nouveaux services numériques du droit transforment les attitudes et les besoins des consommateurs. Ils ouvrent la voie à la simplicité, à la transparence et à la réactivité. Ceci explique le succès des plateformes de documents ou de consultations en ligne. Ce nouveau mode de consommation du droit bouleverse le modèle classique de l’avocat. L’automatisation des processus et l’accès en ligne obligent l’avocat à délaisser les activités à faible valeur ajoutée, à modifier son mode de tarification, à augmenter sa productivité. Le nouveau consommateur de droit réclame de la lisibilité et du pragmatisme dans les réponses juridiques. Comme cela se pratique pour les autres services, le consommateur digital veut noter les services de son prestataire.

L’avocat engoncé dans ses certitudes a perdu peu à peu le contact avec la réalité du client. Avec ses méthodes artisanales, il affronte difficilement la révolution digitale. Dans les années 80, il a dû suivre la mondialisation et l’internationalisation de l’économie et du droit. Aujourd’hui, il découvre le nouveau consommateur digital. Face à lui, apparaissent des concurrents (souvent des robots) qui ont automatisé le travail juridique de base.

L’avocat n’a plus le monopole de la connaissance

La révolution numérique met à mal le modèle d’organisation de l’avocat en ouvrant la connaissance…
L’avocat n’a plus le monopole de la connaissance. Son organisation obsolète engendre des cloisons, des îlots, des refus de partage de clients et de connaissance. La révolution numérique met son modèle à mal puisqu’elle ouvre la connaissance, pousse à la transparence et au mode collaboratif.

Le marché du droit n’a jamais été aussi florissant. L’avocat doit en rester un acteur incontournable.

Le marché du droit n’a jamais été aussi florissant. Les nouveaux modèles créent des nouveaux besoins (le droit des robots, le sécurité informatique…) et des nouveaux consommateurs. Le monde se complexifie et en réponse les législations se multiplient à tous les niveaux de pouvoirs. Les acteurs juridiques n’ont pas de souci à se faire pour leur marché. L’avocat doit en rester un acteur incontournable avec ses atouts d’indépendance, de compétence, de déontologie et d’assurance.

Confronté à ces évolutions, il a deux réactions possibles : soit, il ignore, soit, il anticipe en s’aidant du monde digital pour transformer sa profession, augmenter ses compétences, se libérer des tâches administratives répétitives et se concentrer sur l’essence même de la profession : l’humain.

Pour effectuer cette mue, l’avocat doit améliorer son organisation et se doter de nouveaux outils. Pour accroître sa mobilité, il va supprimer le papier, mettre en place une organisation dématérialisation des données. Cette stratégie va permettre de développer une intelligence collective en donnant accès à tous à la connaissance du cabinet. Les développements fulgurants de l’intelligence artificielle ouvrent à l’avocat des perspectives nouvelles pour gérer la connaissance, organiser les données, anticiper – avec les outils prédictifs – l’issue des procédures, et dégager du temps pour affiner son rôle de conseil et de défenseur par l’écoute empathique et le partage d’expérience.

« Il faut associer l’intelligence artificielle à l’intelligence humaine et émotionnelle et non les dissocier et identifier les tâches qui doivent être faites par la machine lorsqu’elle est plus efficace que l’homme et celles qui doivent être réalisées par l’homme lorsque son jugement, sa déontologie, son analyse et son expérience sont incontournables. »

L’avocat est formaté comme un expert du droit. Ensuite sans aucune formation spécifique, il doit se constituer une clientèle s’il veut un avenir au sein du cabinet. Il n’est pas formé pour affronter les nouveaux défis du monde digitalisé et collaboratif. Les nouveaux perspectives de formation se dessinent à l’horizon. Au-delà des hard skills (finance, informatique, communication, gestion de projets) pour lesquels l’avocat se doit d’acquérir les compétences de base, il s’ouvrira aux soft skills qui développent les compétences humaines et relationnelles (écoute, empathie, acceptation de l’échec, créativité, agilité, adaptabilité, gestion des émotions, lâcher prise) et qui touchent plus au savoir être qu’au savoir-faire. Ce changement d’approche devrait être initié dès l’Université.

Pour répondre aux questions complexes et pluri-disciplinaires, seule une démarche transversale sera efficace. Cela va bouleverser la manière de travailler de l’avocat : les cloisons vont s’effriter ; le travail en équipe se développer. L’échange de l’information devient la règle, le partenariat avec d’autres professions représente le moyen d’offrir des solutions innovantes au client. Le développement de la créativité sera indispensable pour rester agile et anticiper le futur.

L’avocat va métamorphoser sa posture.

L’avocat va métamorphoser sa posture. L’expert détenteur de la connaissance se transforme en passeur d’expérience et co-créateur de solutions. Le client ne viendra plus pour recevoir une réponse juridique abstraite et peu lisible, mais partagera une expérience commune avec son avocat. Ils vont élaborer ensemble la meilleure solution juridique avec un regard holistique. Le client devient acteur de son dossier.

La jeune génération des avocats ne se satisfait plus du modèle ancien et veut entrer dans le modèle collaboratif. Le cabinet traditionnel organisé de manière pyramidale avec un associé, un collaborateur senior et plusieurs collaborateurs juniors est remis en question. Le système était rentable car les collaborateurs étaient facturés à un taux horaire plus élevé que leur coût interne. Ce système a connu des dérives : le travail était effectué par les collaborateurs juniors et l’accent était mis plus sur le nombre d’heures facturées que sur le service au client et la pro-activité.

Aujourd’hui les clients sont réticents à payer la formation des jeunes collaborateurs, à supporter les coûts de l’organisation internes. Le modèle du taux horaire ne dynamise pas l’organisation à se structurer de manière plus efficiente et les clients en ont pris conscience 4. Le travail en équipe sera privilégié. Les jeunes sont plus attentifs à la qualité des relations en interne, souhaitant recevoir des objectifs à atteindre, être flexible en terme de mobilité et d’horaire. Cela conduit à développer un management horizontal plutôt que vertical pour la circulation des informations et la prise de décisions. Le développement des équipes, le partage de la connaissance, l’intelligence collective et le collaboratif deviennent les mots d’ordre du cabinet libéré.

Pour les avocats, s’intéresser à l’innovation, pas seulement technologique, mais aussi économique, managériale et sociétale, est un préalable à la nécessaire transformation pour assurer la pérennité de la profession dans ce qu’elle a d’essentiel : défendre et conseiller l’humain.

Business development Générale Organisation Stratégie

À lire absolument : « Death of a law firm » de Jaap Bosman

« Death of a law firm », l’ouvrage de Jaap Bosman, publié par l’American Bar Association, est une lecture obligatoire pour quiconque se sent concerné par l’avenir du barreau (d’entreprise).

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Avis au barreau. Un entretien avec Anne De Wolf, Legal Trend Watcher

Quand il s’agit de décrypter les évolutions, passées et à venir, des bureaux d’avocats d’affaires, personne n’est mieux placé en Belgique qu’Anne De Wolf. C’est sous sa houlette – quinze ans durant – que l’Institut des juristes d’entreprise, alors modeste association rassemblant 400 membres (ABJE), a accédé au rang d’association professionnelle, représentant actuellement 2 000 juristes d’entreprise.

Générale Stratégie

The Future Lawyer

This article by New Law specialist Mark A Cohen, was first published on LegalBusinessWorld

One way to describe the future lawyer is to list some key challenges attorneys will confront, then identify skillsets required to meet them.

1. Defending the rule of law. This is democracy’s foundation and the mortar for its institutions. Lawyers are its first responders and last defenders. The rule of law is under siege around the world, and lawyers—present and future– must respond to the challenge. As a young Danish lawyer told me recently, ‘I grew up as a child of the EU taking freedom for granted; I don’t anymore. I’m glad I became a lawyer so I can fight for it.’
2. Insuring access to justice. The rule of law is undermined when a significant portion of society lacks meaningful access to legal representation. Such is the case in the US and UK—elsewhere, too. Law has a distribution problem; there are too many unemployed and under-employed attorneys while millions of potential clients go unrepresented because they cannot afford counsel at current rates. Tools exist to correct this imbalance. Technology, process, project management, collaboration, and new delivery models are at the fingertips of future lawyers that can use them to refashion legal delivery.
3. Preserving a free press and insuring that social media and ‘fake news does not subvert fact, evidence, and democratic institutions. Defending a free press has long been a mission for lawyers. Social media has broadened that ongoing challenge. For many, social media is their ‘news’ source– an ‘alternative press’ that lacks veracity filters and can ‘go viral’ in minutes. Social media is rapidly eclipsing traditional media, providing a global platform for ‘alternative facts,’ propaganda, and misinformation masquerading as ‘news.’ Lawyers must not allow the fact-agnostic court of public opinion to marginalize the judicial process. They must also take the lead to streamline the judicial process, utilizing technology and process to make it more accessible, agile, faster, and cost-effective than our outdated court systems are today.
4. Insuring diversity in the legal profession. The world is more inter-connected than ever before. A more diverse legal profession is essential to enhance public confidence in the rule of law. The UK recently took a bold step in that direction with its ‘Super Exam.’ The UK’s independent Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) has dispensed with formal legal training as a requisite for attorney licensure. It has created an exam that tests knowledge of core legal principles; competency; contemporarily relevant skills (project management, technology as applied to legal delivery, interviewing clients, etc.); and experience. In providing various paths to licensure, the SRA intends to insure lawyers are practice-ready upon entry into the profession. The ‘Super Exam’ also reduces the cost of legal training and, in doing so, promotes professional diversity. This is a great step towards creating ‘the future lawyer,’ one that other countries should examine carefully.
5. Ensuring adherence to ethical standards. Law is big business—some estimates peg it at $1trillion per year. But law is also a profession governed by ethical standards. Lawyers will be exposed to old and new ethical challenges—client pressure to ‘push the envelope,’ economics, and the ‘ethics of technology’ to mention but a few. Future lawyers must adhere to ethical standards to protect the rule of law and to ensure that the dual role of law as a profession and a business is preserved. They must deliver ‘faster, better, cheaper’ legal services but never compromise on ethics. Future lawyers must utilize available tools to provide greater access, collaboration, and alignment of interest with clients; that is their ethical duty to individual clients and to society.

What Is A Lawyer?

The Oxford Dictionary defines a lawyer as, ‘A person who practices or studies law; an attorney or counselor.’ That’s a broad definition. It can be expanded to include: (1) licensure; (2) adhering to a code of ethics; (3) upholding the law; (4) simultaneously representing clients that retain them and society; (5) rendering professional judgment; and (6) representing clients in tribunals/transactions and where specialized expertise is required.

Lawyers are in the persuasion and collaboration business. They must persuade prospective clients that they are the right counsel for the engagement; opposing counsel that they are a formidable adversary; and judges that they are competent and ethical. Lawyers use persuasion – within the bounds of ethical conduct — to effect positive, value driven results for their clients. At the same time, a lawyer must also be collaborative. Many people – lawyers included – mistakenly believe that litigation and negotiation is a zero-sum game. Not so. The overwhelming majority of ligation matters are settled; that requires a combination of persuasiveness and collaboration– with opposing counsel, clients, and the court – to effect settlement. Likewise, completed commercial transactions require a combination of persuasion and collaboration by counsel. The widespread use of technology in legal delivery will place an even greater premium on lawyers possessing intellectual intelligence (IQ) and emotional intelligence (EQ). Persuasive, collaborative lawyers merge the two.

Collaboration will have an even broader scope for future lawyers. Disaggregation – the migration of ‘legal work’ from law firms to other legal providers – requires that lawyers collaborate not only with other attorneys but also with technologists, paraprofessionals, project managers, and other professionals. Future lawyers will collaborate across geographies, cultures, and in different political and regulatory environments. Future lawyers must ‘collaborate’ with technology – especially artificial intelligence applications – as well. Technology will not supplant lawyers, but it will enable legal services – and products – to be delivered differently than the traditional law firm partnership model. Technology will continue to recast what tasks lawyers perform and from what models and at what price points they deliver them. Law was once about selling legal expertise. Now, legal delivery is a three-legged stool supported by legal, technological, and process/project management. The fundamentals of what lawyers do – legal practice – have not changed much. But what has changed dramatically is how legal services are delivered — by whom, utilizing what resources, from what kind of business structure, at what cost, for what types of business challenges, and in a way better aligned with client expectations and sense of value. This is why the future lawyer must enter the marketplace with considerably more expertise than simply a knowledge of doctrinal law.

A Checklist of Skillsets for the Future Lawyer

For a long time, simply ‘knowing the law’ was the sole requirement for lawyers to deliver legal services. Those days are over. The future lawyer must augment core legal knowledge with other skills including:
(1) understanding technology’s application to and impact on the delivery of legal services (e.g. e-discovery, cyber-security, contract management, legal research, etc.);
(2) project/process management;
(3) basic business fluency;
(4) client management;
(5) collaboration;
(6) sales and marketing;
(7) an understanding of global legal marketplace developments;
(8) cultural awareness for what has become a global profession; and
(9) emotional intelligence/’people skills.

Emotional intelligence is widely overlooked as a critical legal skill. Top lawyers with high intellect (IQ) and people skills (EQ) will always thrive, no matter how pervasive technology becomes in legal delivery. Future lawyers – like physicians that have morphed from medical practice to the delivery of healthcare – will return to the role of ‘trusted advisers.’ They will interpret data and apply their professional judgment to solve client challenges. In some ways, future lawyers will be ‘returning to basics’ and performing only those tasks that they are uniquely trained to do. Technology, process, and other paraprofessionals and professionals will liberate them to focus on these core tasks. This will better serve clients even if there might sometimes be a harsh economic impact on mid-career attorneys caught between two different legal delivery models.


The legal vertical, long dominated by law firms, is undergoing a tectonic shift in its buy/sell dynamic. This is a result of remarkable advances in technology, globalization, and the aftermath of the global financial crisis that has radically transformed so many verticals. The legal guild is being replaced by a more client-centric, accessible (24/7/365), technology-enabled, process driven, knowledge management based, cost-effective, collaborative, agile, and global delivery model.

This is the golden age of the legal entrepreneur. Regulatory barriers established by the self-regulated legal industry that frustrate competition are either being re-regulated or are being cast aside by clients that are migrating more- and more complex- work to providers other than law firms.

The future lawyer will play an integral role in this transformation. Millennials are already impacting the legal buy/sell dynamic by introducing new, technology and process enabled, agile legal delivery models. They are converting many legal ‘services’ into ‘products (especially in the compliance, contract, and regulatory areas). Delivery of legal services is no longer a staid, hierarchical, monolithic model whose economics are misaligned with clients. It is a global marketplace where the future lawyer can collaborate, design, and deliver new products and services across nations and continents. It’s a time of great opportunity for future lawyers to bring millions of new customers into the marketplace—for the benefit of all.

As the lawyers of the future recreate the legal marketplace, they must zealously defend the rule of law. Its defense will be their most important matter, a constant reminder of what it means to be a lawyer and why the profession is so important to preserving the freedoms so many take for granted.

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Why law firms should focus on adaptation now, not disruption

This article was first published on  LegalBusinessWorld International

Recently Ron Friedmann poured cold water on the notion that large law firms were anywhere close to being « disrupted » — to losing the commercial legal services market to high-tech NewLaw raiders. Disruption? More Like Incremental Change for Big Law, he said, and it’s hard to argue. Many commentators claim that tech, especially artificial intelligence (AI), will do something to Big Law. I disagree. Tech more likely will do something in it: incremental change.

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Will AI and technology disrupt Law Firms?

This article by Ivan Rasic (CEO LegalTrek) was first published on LegalBusinessWorld International in reaction to  “Bots, Big Data, Blockchain, and AI Disruption or Incremental Change?” by Ron Friedman (Founder Prism Legal and Consultant at Fireman & Company) that had also been published on the LegalBusinessWorld website.
“Many commentators claim that tech, especially Artificial Intelligence (AI), will do something to BigLaw. I disagree. It will more likely do something in it – incremental change…” Ron Friedmann

Media does seem to be all too hyped about emerging technologies, and their application in the legal industry. Just think, how many articles have you seen lately that included “AI” and “Law” in their headline?
Moreover, those headlines usually predict the demise of law. According to those sources, the raw computational power and cold algorithmical precision will destroy everything on its way to market domination. However, technology ALONE does not (yet) have the power to replace legal service professionals. I will elaborate below, but before that, let us see what disruption looks like in practice.

How exactly will tech disrupt the legal industry?

Ron argues (and provides some historical examples as well) that every piece of technology developed (and adopted) thus far ended as a support to service professionals. And I second his arguments. Also, I second Ron’s view that too many commentators are quick to foresee the disruption, yet, they provide no clarity on the way, nor the dynamic in which this is going to happen. And disruption is not that difficult to portray.
Especially since we have many past examples (e.g. the industrial revolutions) to analyze).

Matthew Burgess recently described on the LegalTrek Blog what disruption looks like, and what steps it usually takes before gaining the full momentum.

As you can see in that article:
• Matthew correlated disruption with NewLaw players, NOT the technology ITSELF; and
• Matthew illustrated a pathway that disruption takes, usually at the outskirts of the val- ue chain.

The disruption, contrary to the popular opinion, does not happen overnight. It starts at the bottom and displaces the incumbents at the market margins. Disrupting companies (not technologies) feed of the bottom until they grow enough to start pursuing more valuable work. They shrink the pie piece by piece for the incumbents. Incumbents are slow to move due to their legacies (e.g. attitude, procedures, size), and, until they make radical moves, they are doomed to be taken out of the market.This is a process that can take decades. For exam- ple, people talk about LegalZooms, and Rock- etlawyers. How many do actually know that LegalZoom actually started around the late nineties?
All that being said, I am not advocating that law firms should be in a standstill, since there is plenty of time. Quite the contrary – I urge law firms to move and transform their prac- tices so they can be ready to meet the future. My goal here was simply to portray the dis- ruption process in a nutshell. I do so here since I feel this is very frequently missed by all those articles that praised the AI, BigData, etc. as the sole destructors of the legal profession.

Do law firms completely ignore tech-nology?

Again, this is one of the main tropes in all the “run for the hills, the end is nigh” articles. However, there are examples and (at least) anecdotal evidence that law firms are using alternative legal providers and algorithms to enhance the low-level work.
For example, this article claims the lower-paid work handled by juniors is now almost entirely gone, and replaced by alternative service ven- dors, in the Am Law 100. The partners, arguably, focus mostly on the least price-sensi- tive work.
Further, Richard Burcher recently polled law firm partners during the latest Validatum Pricing Forum. Richard asked the following questions:


AI replacing lawyers?

AI a priority in law firms?








Though the sample is somewhat limited (the poll was held among the audience present at the event), it seems that it goes in line with Ron’s points of view. Law Firm partners are aware of what technology can do for them. And some of those are using the AI technology even now to restructure their operations.
Yes, some of the legal professionals will be replaced. And the chart suggests law firm partners believe so as well. But the displacement will focus on the low level work.
As always, technology is moving the needle. It helps us do more with less critical resources (time, human touch). But it does not remove the need for human judgement and support.

Will technology put lawyers out of business?

I believe my view is already clear enough from all the arguments and examples given above. And I have recently answered this same question on Quora. No, technology, in its most nar- row sense, WILL NOT replace lawyers, or put law firms out of the business. Algorithms still do not have the capacity to render the services, even if able to answer complex questions. These still need to be managed by people. People still need to make judgements, and provide a supporting role around the service itself (e.g. estimate budgets, manage projects, etc.). Technology will certainly transform the legal service delivery process itself, but not remove lawyers entirely. What is happening now is that lower level legal staff gets displaced. This can easily be mitigated if only law schools recognize in time that lawyers nowadays need a broader perspective and skillset. Good news are that some schools do. However, Ron and me are not alone in this view. D. Casey Flaherty mentioned a few AI solutions during our recent Webinar: Is the Billable Hour Slowing Down Innovation, and he agrees those are still in the supporting role


New competition for law firms

If tech will not disrupt legal industry, then why so much panic?

When talking about technology and disruption in legal, some people take LegalZoom as a clear example of how tech already disrupts legal profession. But this argument is flawed, mostly because LegalZoom is not a piece of technology (nor it is really a technology company). Axiom Law, likewise, is not a tech company, and, arguably, are their use of tech is not on a high level at all. Axiom Law is a service company. Both Axiom and LegalZoom are what we today describe as Alternative Legal Service Providers, also know as the NewLaw. Now, the NewLaw has the potential AND the capacity to displace law firms, in a segment or even entirely. In fact, that is even happening right now as we speak (well, as you read, anyways). In my recent post Law Firms vs NewLaw: How to face the future of legal services? I gave a breakdown of the competitive landscape to law firms (see the point #3 in the article). This is one of the data charts I refer to when it comes to the competition
(this one is from the Altman Weil 2016 Report “Law Firms in Transition”)

And while NewLaw displaces the BigLaw (and even puts more pressure on smaller law firms as well) does that mean NewLaw will abolish the need for legal service professionals? Absolutely not. Someone still needs to do the work. Right?

What is actually going on nowadays is the TECTONIC shift in terms of the business model. The old Pyramid model is going away, while the new model, the Rocket, starts to flourish. Please note on the chart below that Rocket is augmented by technology AND still employs legal service professionals.

What can you expect to happen?

Finally, to conclude and to answer the start- ing question here:
1. No, technology (i.e. algorithms) will not remove the need for legal service professionals, nor put law firms out of business. In fact, it will assist their work and make them much more agile;
2. the NewLaw certainly has the pow- er to put law firms out of business, as it happens today, as illustrated above;
3. the NewLaw will not remove the need for legal service professionals. Quite the contrary – it OUT- SOURCES to lawyers and/or em- ploys them, in order to be able to have the work and intellectual power.
There is simply no reason to run for the hills just yet. Quite the contrary – law firm partners must remain with their feet firm on the ground, mind clear and open for the future. Examine the situation, understand what is coming, and find your spot in the new legal industry landscape.