AS LAW MODERNIZES THESE VALUES WILL BE MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER BEFORE

This week I want to examine four core values that I believe enable effective legal service and promote public confidence, and their implications for our future. 

In almost all discussions of the future of law we focus on change.  What we need to do differently.  That is because we can and must do better.  A very healthy outlook.  

But, as we make changes, we should never lose sight of what enables clients and the public to have confidence in law and our justice system.  Those core values can be our guide as we decide how and what we change.

The Core Values of Effective Legal Service

The concept of “core values” took on special meaning for me when I read  Jim Collins’ and Jerry Jerry Porras’ seminal book Built to Last.  They were very helpful at Orrick as we articulated what mattered most many years ago.  They are values that must never be compromised. No matter how other considerations weigh on a decision, the core values must be honored.

I believe there are four core values that comprise the foundation of effective legal service: Client Focus; Quality; Character; and Reliable Outcomes. These are values established by our current system, at its best.  Here are my thoughts on each.

          Client Focus

Effective legal service must begin, and remain throughout the engagement, focused on the clients.  To serve clients one must understand them, as people (and/or entities), and what their objectives are.  Who are they? Why do they seek legal service? What do they want to achieve? What is at stake for them? What resources can they afford to spend on legal service?  What preferences do they have for the way their legal service is delivered? All else flows from the answers to these questions.

Effective legal service also requires a shared vision of the range of outcomes of engagements.  Clients come to the table with differing levels of experience and knowledge. Matters vary in their predictability, as well.  It is vital clients have a reliable sense of what to expect.

In the way I mean it, client focus requires serious effort and attention, not just a marketing slogan.  It must be part of the culture of the legal service organization, part of the incentive system, and an articulated element of the firm’s service model.  

           Quality

Perhaps the most obvious core value of effective legal service is quality: performing the service to the standard expected by the client and the community.   It contemplates requisite skills, knowledge, and experience, but it is about performance. How the service is delivered.

The quality imperative applies beyond traditional legal tasks like appearing in court or drafting an agreement.  It extends to all other tasks such as client communications and project management.

           Character

Closely related to quality is the character of the legal service.  Our legal system is predicated on a high level of moral character on the part of all who deliver legal service.  They are expected to be honest, truthful, trustworthy, and otherwise ethical. Effective legal service requires fidelity to the interests of the client, and elevating those interests above any competing interests, other than the law itself.  

This is a value that sets law apart from other commercial relationships.  Lawyers and other legal service providers have an affirmative duty to observe these high ethical standards in every facet of what they do.  In turn this value enables candid communication with clients, and effective operation of the justice system.

            Reliable Outcomes

Ultimately, effective legal service contemplates reliable outcomes.  At the commencement of the engagement the client has an expectation that something will result.  The dispute will be resolved or the deal will be negotiated. While no one can guarantee particular details, such as a favorable jury verdict or a particular financial term in an agreement,  effective legal service delivers an outcome within the range of the original expectation.   

The Core Values Can Be Our Compass in the World Ahead

The future will see profound change in the way legal services are delivered.  New models will emerge in law firms, with more diverse disciplines and greater use of technology.  Regulatory reform will expand the types of business entities permitted to deliver legal services. More legal services will be delivered remotely.   More will take place online, including the resolution of disputes. And on it will go.

The changes all will occur with the objective of making legal service better.  Partly because enhanced tools and methods are now available. And partly because our current system has shortcomings that need to be addressed. 

As we approach these changes, we need to be vigilant in our commitment to our core values.  We can make truly bold and ambitious changes with confidence so long as we are determined to preserve and improve client focus, quality, character, and reliable outcomes.  

Our core values can act as our compass to ensure that our modernized legal system enjoys the confidence of clients and the public.   

THE NEW INITIATIVE HOSTED TWO DAYS OF STIMULATING DISCUSSION ON THE FUTURE OF THE LEGAL PROFESSION

Modernization of legal service got an influential new ally last week with the launch of the Future of the Profession Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.  To mark its launch the Initiative hosted Law 2030: A Global Conversation About the Future of the Profession, welcoming approximately 250 leaders from across the legal service community, last Thursday and Friday in Philadelphia.  More than 600 others joined online.

The Initiative has the resources to make a meaningful difference in the pace of change. Based in one of the country’s leading law schools, it has:  the full support of the Dean, Ted Ruger, who actively participated in the discussions at Law 2030;  an engaged Advisory Board of prominent PennLaw alumni;  and an effective executive team, led by Executive Director Jennifer Leonard, also a PennLaw alum.  In my experience, the quality and depth of resources supporting and leading a venture of this kind are critical. 

The content and format of  Law 2030 reflected a sophisticated and ambitious outlook.  The sessions addressed the most critical challenges and opportunities facing the legal profession and its clients today. And they were structured to present diverse perspectives and divergent opinions, and to enable genuine discussion of emerging issues, stimulating more new ideas than the traditional panel format. Here are some highlights:

Inspiring Keynote

Dartmouth Professor Vijay Govindarajan delivered an inspiring keynote, based on his book, The Three Box Solution. It was an ideal way to begin the event, exploring the difference between simply managing existing enterprises better (“Box One”) and, instead,  aspiring to to do something audacious (“Box Three”).  A moon shot. Among the many vivid analogies he employed was the story of Olympic champion swimmer Katie Ledecky, who defied the conventional norms of her sport to reach her “true potential” and exceed conventional expectations.  Law needs such a bold approach to move beyond its traditional models, and achieve its “true potential.”

Day One Sessions

MacEwen Slide Projecting Future Legal Services Market Shares

An unusual, wide-ranging set of short presentations, followed by a conversation moderated by Gina Passarella, took up most of the afternoon of the first day.  Participants included Connie Brenton, head of Legal Operations at NetApp and founder of CLOC, Claudia Johnson, a Program Manager at ProBono Net, Bruce MacEwen, President of Adam Smith, Esq., Madhav Srinivasan, CFO of Hunton Andrews Kurth, and Emilio Varanini, President, California Lawyers Association.  Each presentation provided illuminating insights into a critical subject,  from Brenton’s candid account of the changing role of corporate legal departments, to Johnson’s depiction of life on the front line of serving pro bono clients, to Bruce MacEwen’s data driven report on the receding market share of BigLaw. Gina Passarella then did a great job of drawing the participants into conversation, including sometimes passionate disagreements.  Excellent substance in a format that stimulated everyone to think critically about the complex policy questions legal innovation involves.

Inspirational ABA President Judy Perry Martinez wrapped up the first day with an appeal for everyone in the room to extend themselves to fully understand the real needs of today’s clients, from the indigent individual to the global corporation, and to help our system make the changes necessary to meet all of those needs.

Day Two Sessions

The second day the program turned to two unusual elements. 

The first looked outside the world of law.  Leaders and innovators from medicine discussed the challenges they face and the innovations they are undertaking to address them.  The presenters and their stories were impressive, and provided helpful context for what we face in law. While there was much in common, e.g., “professionals are hard to manage,” there were clear differences, e.g., medicine makes better use of data to assess its challenges and is more oriented to systemic answers to meet them.  Useful perspectives.

The second looked to the newest generation of lawyers.  Twelve Penn students were invited to work in four teams of three to design a solution for a law firm seeking to increase its lawyer well-being.  The teams came back with four thoughtful, innovative, and varied sets of recommendations. It was both an exercise in how process design can work and an illustration of the creative potential of the insights and outlooks of the new generation entering the legal profession, people not yet indoctrinated in the traditional law firm norms.  Professor Govindarajan’s “Box Two” involves liberation from the impediments of old ways of doing things; the new generation operates free of those impediments until we impose them.

Jim Sandman, President Emeritus of the Legal Services Corporation,  closed the event with a stirring call to action:   Our system of justice is failing to meet the needs of the majority of our people.  The innovations we are making so far are inadequate; they are stuck in Box One.  We can fix our system, but only with moon shot level changes: actively drawing on other disciplines; giving users real input; and enacting fundamental regulatory reform.  This will require leadership, he said, suggesting the University of Pennsylvania might be just the institution to provide it. We have overcome much greater challenges in our history, he observed.  “We can do this.  And we must!”

A Positive and Encouraging Event

I really enjoyed participating in the event.  It was great to spend two days with such a diverse group of professionals, all sincerely dedicated, in their own ways, to better legal service for all. 

It was also encouraging to experience the launch of such a promising new agent for change in our profession. If the quality of this event is any indication, the Initiative will make a big difference in the years ahead.

WE SHOULD NOT DEFINE THE ROLES OF HALF OUR PEOPLE IN THE NEGATIVE

We really need to stop using the term “non-lawyer” to refer to everyone who works in legal services who has not passed the bar exam.  

This issue is much more than a word choice.  At best it is careless. At worst it reflects a lack of respect for the contributions that half  the people in legal services make. Either way, we should put an end to the use of the term.

No One Wants to Be Defined in the Negative

I first realized this problem more than 25 years ago when Norm Rubenstein, one of the most revered marketing professionals in law,  joined Orrick as our Chief Marketing Officer. It was a big moment for the firm. We were embracing bold new ideas in the way we presented ourselves to the market; Norm was joining us, along with a celebrated “dream team” he had recruited from other firms, to lead the effort. At the first partner meeting at which Norm unveiled our marketing mission he took me aside to share his disappointment that we referred to his team as “non-lawyers.” No one, he observed, wants to be defined in the negative. We had assembled some of the best people in their field only to define them in that way.

It was a true aha moment for me. One that has been with me ever since and affects my sense of how we should think about the talented people who work in our firms.  And how we should refer to them.  Continue Reading Let’s Stop Calling Legal Service Professionals “Non-Lawyers”

OUR OUTMODED RULES IMPEDE INNOVATION AND CAUSE OUR JUSTICE SYSTEM TO UNDERSERVE A PUBLIC THAT NEEDS IT MORE THAN EVER

In my first post on Legal Services Today, I wrote that, while we have a great legal system, it can and must do better.  Nearly every observer agrees that law has not kept pace with advances in technology and process design the way other businesses and professions have.  

I listed three reasons law is not more modern.  This week, I address one of those reasons : the unduly restrictive rules governing the practice of law.

The Context Compelling Regulatory Reform

Law is more important than ever before.  Law is in everyone’s life; every business’ business; and in just about how everything works.  Everyone needs legal services today.

The way our legal system now operates, it does not meet the needs of the public.  In some cases not at all. In others not as well as it should. Continue Reading It Is High Time to Reform the Rules that Govern the Practice of Law

8500 PROFESSIONALS FROM ACROSS THE LEGAL SERVICE ECOSYSTEM CAME TOGETHER FOR A WEEK OF LEARNING, SHARING, AND NETWORKING

I participated in Legalweek 2020 in New York last week, co-chairing the Legal Business Strategy Program with Gina Passarella, Editor in Chief of the American Lawyer.  It was a exceptional experience.

Here is my report:

The World’s Most Comprehensive Legal Technology Event

What began as “LegalTech,” the world’s largest and longest running legal technology trade show, has grown to become the world’s largest and most comprehensive event for the exploration of how everyone in law can benefit from the power of legal technology.

More than 8500 professionals participated in the three day event this year.  They included representatives across the entire legal services ecosystem: law firms, corporate law departments, alternative legal service providers, legal technology companies, judges, regulators, consultants, academics, and journalists.  Within each of these categories, the attendees reflected the diverse array of roles and perspectives engaged in law and technology today.

The event proceeded on three tracks: Legal Business Strategy (focused on the evolution of legal service delivery); Legal CIO (focused on the management of legal technology in legal service) and LegalTech (focused on developments in legal technology).  Each track offered informative and actionable educational sessions led by leading professionals engaged in cutting edge facets of the intersection of law and technology.  

By virtue of its scale and the diversity of its participants, the event offered a truly unparalleled opportunity to “network,” to connect with others in the legal technology world in a setting that fosters meaningful conversation about the issues challenging and stimulating all of us.

And the event continues to offer a massive exhibit hall in which participants can learn about legal technology products and services first hand.

Focused, Expert, and Pragmatic Educational Sessions

The educational sessions were led by professionals who are directly engaged in the work of integrating technology into the law. In the examples I share below, I list the session leaders for illustration. Continue Reading Legalweek 2020 In New York Was Outstanding

THE TRADITIONAL MODEL WILL CHANGE IN FIVE FUNDAMENTAL WAYS 

I wrote last week about law firms’ increased focus on innovation, the market forces behind it, and why it is important to the overall modernization of legal services.  

I believe this innovation effort will inexorably lead to five fundamental changes in the law firm business model.  Each change will have an impact on the others; once one changes, the others will necessarily adapt. 

Here’s how I think it will work:

Innovation Is a Search for a Better Way

To innovate is “to make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.”  In legal services, innovation involves re-examining the established way of doing things and finding better ways that new methods, ideas, and tools make possible. 

Innovation is a search for a better way. A search that is motivated by a realization that the traditional way is no longer satisfactory.  It works, but not well enough.  It fails to draw adequately on the new reality of what is possible.  It is falling short of what the market is now demanding.

As they proceed to innovate, firms are finding that their business model needs to adapt to make a better way possible.  Continue Reading Innovation Will Change the Law Firm Business Model

Law Firms Are Responding to Market Pressure With Increased Efforts to Innovate

Law firms across the country are taking steps to innovate  the way they organize themselves and serve their clients.  This trend promises to be more than a passing fancy because it is driven by demands from corporate clients , as well as increasing competition from new entrants in the legal services market.

This development matters beyond the interests of the law firms.  In many ways, law firms, particularly the most prominent ones, set the standards for legal services.  They establish benchmarks for legal representation. And otherwise have an outsized impact on the pace of modernization in law. 

The pressure they feel, and the response they make, has the potential to accelerate the pace of modernization of legal services.    Continue Reading Law Firm Innovation Is Picking Up Steam

THIS YEAR’S PROGRAM PROMISES TO BE THE BEST EVER: TOPICS, SPEAKERS, AND FORMATS

Legal Week 2020 convenes in New York in just two weeks on Tuesday, February 4.  One of the most significant events in law each year, it attracts more than 8,000 participants, across the spectrum of stakeholders in contemporary American law.

Gina Passarella Editor-In-Chief, American Lawyer Magazine

I am delighted to be co-chairing the Legal Business Strategy Program at Legal Week this year, with Gina Passarella, Editor-in-Chief of the American Lawyer Magazine.

I have long been a believer in the value of convening people in the legal service ecosystem for informed discussion of the cutting edge issues they confront.  That is why I created the Law Firm Leaders Forum in 1995  and have produced it ever since.  And it is why I am excited about our program this year at Legal Week, which we have designed based on lessons learned in prior Legal Week programs, and in all the years of LFLF.

Our program will consist of sessions which address the most challenging issues in legal service delivery today.  Each session will be led by experienced leaders who will share their perspectives and advice. Each session will be interactive with the audience, assuring that participants get their questions addressed, and permitting everyone to benefit from the assembled group.  The opportunity for learning and testing one’s own outlook in sessions like these makes the time out of the office well worthwhile. Continue Reading Don’t Miss the Business Strategy Program at Legal Week 2020

RICHARD SUSSKIND PROPOSES AN INCREMENTAL TRANSFORMATION OF OUR COURT SYSTEM.  AND ENCOURAGES READERS  TO THINK DEEPLY ABOUT WHAT CONSTITUTES “ACCESS TO JUSTICE” AND “JUSTICE” ITSELF, AS THEY CONSIDER THE FUTURE OF DISPUTE RESOLUTION. 

 

In my introductory post on Legal Services Today, I said I planned to draw attention to people who are making a difference in the way legal services are delivered.  I can think of no better example than Richard Susskind. 

No one in the last two decades has contributed more to the discussion and examination of how legal services can be modernized than Richard.  He is a prolific writer, having written numerous best-selling and ground-breaking books, and one of the most popular speakers in the world of law, having spoken in more than 50 countries.  To both his writing and his speaking, Richard brings an uncommonly effective way of connecting with people:  he is clear, concise, and entertaining. And, of course, he knows what he’s talking about. Continue Reading  Richard Susskind’s New Book: Drawing on Technology to Achieve Justice

THE UNITED STATES HAS A GREAT LEGAL SYSTEM.  BUT IT CAN SERVE CLIENTS BETTER, BUILD STRONGER FIRMS,  AND CREATE MORE AND BETTER CAREERS IN LEGAL SERVICE.  

First things first

I am delighted to launch Legal Services Today.  I am grateful for the assistance of Kevin O’Keefe and the entire team at Lex Blog for their support in getting this new blog up and running.

As the name suggests, this blog will focus on how legal services are delivered.  More particularly, it will focus on two main ideas: (1) how the law works and (2) how we can make it work better for everyone. Continue Reading There Is A Better Way