May 23, 2014
It’s in the business interests of law firms and law departments to regularly re-equip and re-fit their lawyers – at every level of expertise and career stage – to meet the changing rigors of new/emerging practice models and evolving client needs. The firm and department of the future must anticipate what’s around the next corner and assure that their lawyers are ready to rise to new challenges that will face their clients (and that other – often non-legal – service providers are capably offering to solve for clients for lower and more predictable fees). Explore Susan Hackett’s 4-part series on just how your legal department can address these issues in an environment in which “Nothing’s Normal” anymore.
Everyone in the legal industry spends gobs of time these days talking about the relevance of legal service delivery models and how what used to work often doesn’t work anymore. There are lots of ideas and arguments in play about what we should do, which practices will drive better value, and how law firms and law departments must be re-engineered to respond to this “New Normal.” But as I spend time advancing these conversations with legal executives, I realize that focusing on the re-invention of the business model allows us to gloss over a larger issue: the need to re-invent the lawyers themselves who will work in these emerging business models.
If you are a leading executive for a law department, you are likely thinking about a number of changes that your team must address in the coming years. You know that your team needs re-tooling. In the back of your head, there’s likely a sneaking suspicion that the hard part isn’t going to be identifying best practices or writing the work-plan for implementation: the challenge is confronting and overcoming the ingrained behaviors of the very smart lawyers you work with who are used to doing things their own way.
I have offered a list of skills and competencies that constitute much of the “new normal” skill set. (Note: not every skill mentioned is necessary or critical for every practice – they represent the variety of skills that many firms and departments across the spectrum are considering.) To add to the checklist provided, we’ll examine some real life practices at work in law firms and departments to “mind the gap” between legal training and practical business skills and service delivery by lawyers. Legal project management, legal process management, and cost and time-saving technologies are discussed.
The final installment takes everything we know about the new normal, and puts in on a global scale. I live and work in the U.S. – but my practice and my clients are global. It’s likely that if you’re a law department executive, you can say the same thing about wherever you live and work (local), and the people your practice touches (global). Today’s general counsel are struggling with issues involving the globalization of the legal team, even though the issues and the composition of their departments and practices have grown substantially in scale.