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Posts Tagged ‘End of lawyers?’

Chrissie Lightfoot: A good friend and new blogger at the law gazette in the UK posted this blog last week:

The end of lawyers? Pah! This is the time of the ’super lawyer’.

Actually being able to truly relate and care about the client and his/her business and/or predicament is fundamental to what true lawyering and LIC is all about. Extraordinary relationships and customer service will be the holy grail at the heart of the successful super lawyer. Building an enduring value relationship with the consumer, utilising ‘fluffy soft-skills stuff’ combined with a total consumer-centric focus is where the real value will be for the lawyer, law firm and consumer of today and the future.” Excerpt from Chrissie’s blog

In my comment to her blog, I added that these “super lawyers” would also have to treat their colleagues with the same value service. At least anecdotally, I have often heard that lawyers receive more clients from other lawyers than advertising or word of mouth. I did. That could also explain why plaintiff’s lawyers market so persistently to other lawyers in Florida.

In 16 years of practice, Plaintiff’s lawyers are the only lawyers to have ever paid me referrals and co-counsel fees. Frankly, I don’t see much that can save many lawyers from commoditization and global competition when they have difficulty personally thanking colleagues for referrals. How can we aspire to success and a better lifestyle in the legal profession without investing in relationships. Yet, I see lawyers investing in everything but relationship: from all kinds of software, Westlaw and Lexis, to expensive office space and hardware.

I recommend that any lawyer thinking about spending even more $$ for technology and infrastructure consider investing first in relationships. Consider investing in the skills to build and grow a deeper and broader network. You can buy Google Apps for $50 a year and all those gizmos don’t really advance a business like good relationships, or like returning calls promptly, and scheduling meetings and lunches with colleagues that can refer clients.

Don’t let yourself become so busy and distracted with tasks that you have no time to build and invest in your future, in a more joyful lifestyle.  And remember: friends first, business second.

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Are you going to sit idly while the waters of commoditization rise? Will you passively observe while outsourcing and technology take over your routine legal work and make you obsolete?

I suppose you could.

After all, there is an undeniably numbing comfort in doing nothing in a crisis and just watching it happen.  You would not be alone: some soldiers in the massive battles of WWII were often so numbed by the cacophony  that they just stood there; not shooting or even trying to protect themselves from harm.  The only way to get these emotionally and mentally “frozen” soldiers to act was to arouse them to the awareness that they were letting their brothers die.

Will you let your colleagues down or would you protect them?

Maybe you perceive that it would be better for you if more lawyers did “die. Cynically, it would take care of the accelerating competition.  I invite you to use your hard-earned logic and deduce the inevitable outcome of a profession in which it becomes all against all. As in chess, there is only one outcome from that move – game over!  We all lose.

How did we become so deluded, so lost in a fog of lies to believe that our own best interest was to destroy the opposition at all costs?

In fact, not theory, I propose a more hopeful, rewarding and financially successful alternative:  a legal community (OBA) wherein we share resources, support each other to succeed, play nice and collaborate.  Most lawyers belong to one or more voluntary bars designed around a particular practice like employment law.  Increasingly, these niche bars are exclusively either for defense counsel or plaintiff’s lawyers.  In these bars you will see legal communities of extraordinary collaboration, support and sharing of resources.  In one bar organization that I belonged to briefly, the lawyers, joined by a shared emotional cause, volunteered to take each other’s depositions and motion hearings throughout the entire country.

Question is can this camaraderie exist across all borders and practices? Can it include non-lawyers supporting the profession?   If only to survive and prosper in law, I propose you’re going to have to. There are hundreds of books clamoring about how business is changing towards just this type of organizations.   We are not immune from this evolution.

OBA is designed as such a legal community.  It’s a “community based knowledge ecosystem” where in participants share knowledge and experience.  Richard Susskind’s takes this topic on in his Chapter 4.7 in The End of Lawyers?  Richard predicts only in house lawyers can collaborate in legal communities.  He goes on to say that “….bearing in mind the current business models of law firms and the intense competition between them, they would not be incentivized to collaborate with one another….around the world”.  In the case of elite and large firms (ELFs), I agree, but not with Small and Solo Firms (SSF).  Why? SSFs have more to gain by joining and sharing resources, and more to lose by intense competition.

That being said, OBA is a social organization (technical term for we like to have fun) maximizing technology’s exponential growth for mutual support and success.  Let technology work for us.  The technology that is only now beginning is that of trusted communities of lawyers.  If you’re interested in becoming a part of this growing movement go to www.theonlinebar.com and join OBA.

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