“Your title implies that everyone else is dumb”, observed an esteemed senior lawyer on reading my first book “The Smarter Legal Model: more for less” (2010). Given that this luminary actually thought his fellow lawyers were dumb, I wasn’t sure whether this was criticism or corroboration.
I developed the performance improvement methods in the original Model during my career as senior counsel / general counsel at Apple pre-and-post the Steve Jobs’ comeback, at Dell during its rocket ride from No.7 to No.1 worldwide, at Tyco during the post-Kozlowski scandal turnaround and EY during the Lehman collapse litigation. Clearly, necessity has been the mother of invention during such high-profile, existential endeavours. The convergence of law firm panels and disaggregation of legal work pioneered in The Smarter Legal Model are now ubiquitous. And since 2010, I have consulted on hundreds of career, legal department and law firm transformations around the World.
Only results make one approach smarter than another. One client reduced its legal department spend to such an extent that it worriedly called me back to investigate why it was now spending so little for its improved service and possibly short-changing law firms (it wasn’t). A Magic Circle firm reported that project management had reduced lost fees totalling 15% of revenue. A client paid its law firm $4.75 million for work that only amounted to $350,000 of their billable time and still saved itself $73 million. The business development techniques that grew the Big 4 professional services firms to over $30 billion in revenue effectively cost nothing for law firms to implement. There are technology solutions with a return on investment of 507% and tender processes in which the client was able to pay its law firm bidders more than their proposals and still reduce its spend by 44%. On a personal performance level, around 9 out of 10 individuals involved in the direct implementation of a Smarter transformation have received a promotion, bonus, award or some other sought-after advancement.
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By contrast, my failures were consigned to a much larger book entitled: “The Dumber Legal Model” which the publishers tell me is unprintable due to the persistent profanity. As Thomas Edison said: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Smarter methodology has broadened from cost efficiency and intensified its focus on excellence in coverage, compliance, talent and client satisfaction for clients and legal service providers. It is no longer just “more for less” but now “better quality for less.”
And it represents 1,000 ways that will work.
From Emotional to Artificial Intelligence
A Smarter approach uses the broadest range of proven techniques to improve personal, professional and business performance, spanning “left brain” thinking (logic, analysis, math & words) and “right brain” thinking (creativity, emotion, diagrams & pictures). This is modern behavioral economics applied to law, comprising intricate behavioral patterns and detailed econometric processes. Soft skills and hard data.
Transforming Busy Lawyers into Business Leaders
There is a range of ways in which a lawyer may become a business leader, of course. A lawyer can excel at leading their own personal approach, practice or department forward by using world-class performance improvement methods. As a result, one should become an indispensable business partner and trusted adviser to one’s clients. Eventually, certain lawyers may seek to graduate to leadership of all business disciplines, as did Kenneth Frazier, CEO, Merck; and Mark Weinberger, Chairman, EY. It doesn’t matter how far along the range we may wish to travel; only the direction of travel is important: towards greater capability, productivity and personal satisfaction.
Smarter Law Structure
There are four interlocking sections, cascading in logical order to reflect natural consequences: Smarter lawyers make for Smarter legal departments and law firms, which in turn form Smarter relationships:
Every transformative journey requires a map; this structure is a neutral process that empowers you or your organisation to assess your current status, set ultimate goals, plot your route and execute your specific journey goals. GPS rather than an A-to-Z.
Smarter Law is for those who:
- are seeking to increase value, improve legal coverage, compliance and client satisfaction, while optimizing talent (including your own) and minimizing cost;
- attend legal conferences, collecting education points, taking semi-earnest notes, exchanging business cards and war stories (a.k.a. ‘‘best practice’’), kvetching about the same issues and then not do anything significantly different afterwards; and
- want a practical improvement process when the stakes are high, but the resources are not.
Smarter Law is not for those who want to ruminate on the legal profession’s dystopian future because of this week’s threat or shiny cyber-object, AI, blockchain or levitating lawyers. As James Baldwin put it: “The future is like heaven, everyone exalts it, but no one wants to go there now”. Speculation about the future can be a popular displacement activity within the legal profession when it delays making innovative improvements that are entirely possible and necessary today. Sometimes it’s easier to bandy around the Wayne Gretzky ice-hockey analogy (“Skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been”), rather than risk taking a shot at change now. Don’t forget Gretzky also said: “You miss 100% of the shots you never take”.
So in summary, Smarter Law comprises these things rather than those:
Apologies then, the title is not intended to make a pejorative comparison with anyone. The only challenging comparison to make in a ‘‘Smarter’’ approach is with yourself last week.
Once we fail to look up we think that we’ve reached the highest point.
“Smarter Law: transforming busy lawyers into business leaders”, the definitive performance improvement solution is published by Thomson Reuters and is available on amazon.com and through Thomson Reuters.