All joking aside, the time for legal innovation is now

September 12, 2013

Report reviewWhat do you call a professional who hears the word “innovation” and immediately thinks “risk” (as well as a few other choice four-letter words)? A lawyer.

Maintaining the status quo (despite some unflattering perceptions) has historically been a pretty good strategy for lawyers. Sure, we have to endure countless lawyer jokes, but that’s not a bad tradeoff for an occupation that’s stable, predictable and, for many, lucrative. For years, firms were full of lawyers for whom “business development” consisted of looking at how tall the stack of work on their desks was in a given day.

The world post-Great Recession is now a different place with an increased commoditization of what used to be specialized legal services. Law firms are now serving a client base that’s increasingly price sensitive and inclined to adopt a do-it-yourself approach when at all possible.

The legal profession, long resistant to change, is now playing “catch-up” with the rest of the business world. “Innovative” law firms are basically instituting the same approaches to client service and project management that have long been the norm outside our industry and which have largely driven the necessity for change that law firms now face.

For lawyers unwilling to embrace these new industry trends, the joke will ultimately be on them as more and more clients expect law firms to work with them on alternative fee arrangements, offer lean project management and consider assigning and potentially outsourcing work and projects to non-lawyers to save costs, where possible. It’s a brave new world of legal services and a scary time for many lawyers. It’s also an exciting opportunity for lawyers and law firms to embrace a more client-centered philosophy and engage in less traditional and creative legal practice models.