SecretSauceStarting in the 1970s and continuing for many years, one of the major fast food chains ran ads that featured a catchy jingle: “two all beef patties special sauce lettuce cheese pickles onions on a sesame seed bun.” The jingle was well done and, unlike many jingles and commercials in general, you immediately associated it with the company using it McDonald’s. To this day, those of us around when the jingle was running instantly know someone is talking about McDonald’s when they hear the jingle.

The list of ingredients didn’t include anything special for a hamburger except, of course, the special sauce. For those in the know, the special sauce could be mimicked using some very common ingredients. But of course most people didn’t know and without the Internet they couldn’t check online to see who had come up with a recipe. The special sauce, common as it was, added something special to the McDonald’s hamburger experience.

Of course, McDonald’s wasn’t the only chain that had something special. It wasn’t event the only hamburger chain with something special. Another chain called White Spot advertised its secret sauce, another combination of common ingredients but still special for its customers.

Building a Secret Sauce

As lawyers, I’m sure you all are offended by a blog post on lawyering that talks about fast food. Why, nothing could be further from the fast food experience than lawyering. Coming to a lawyer is more like a fine dining experience. May I suggest checking out this post on Thrillist.com? The selections range in price from $60 to $666, with a couple of real oddballs thrown in at higher prices.

Back to fast food. Obviously, one challenge for hamburger chains is differentiation. When you sell a basic food product, it is tough to explain to customers why they should visit your restaurant. Convenience could be a differentiator, but since all fast food chains claim to be convenient, it doesn’t get you very far. You can sell other foods, but so do the other guys. Your burgers might be cooked differently (fried or grilled), but that differentiator also has its limits. But a secret sauce? Now that is something hard to copy, or at least not something another chain would want to copy. Why would you want to advertise you serve the same secret sauce as the other guy?

If you decide to go the secret sauce route, then you to have to decide what goes into your sauce. Is it a special blend of seasonings? A mix of unusual condiments? The choices are almost endless, until you factor in cost, what customers like, and other nuances. Even with those constraints, when it comes to secret sauces you can have some fun.

But We Are Lawyers, Not Chefs

Enough with the hamburger metaphor, you say, we are lawyers not chefs. What does the whole secret sauce bit have to do with us? Every legal services delivery organization should have at least one secret sauce. Your secret sauce is something that differentiates your organization from all competitor organizations. Now, every organization will have a differentiator – its own sauce – so having one doesn’t make your organization unique. What makes it unique is how you do the sauce.

Let’s assume your organization’s sauce is customer service. All legal services organizations have some manner of customer service, so your organization isn’t differentiated so far. But now you make customer service your secret sauce. How your organization delivers customer service will be unique to your organization, even if you model your customer service after the way another organization does it. Your organization’s culture, people, values, and all the other things that go into your organization will blend to come through in that sauce. The secret will be the unique blend that is your organization.

To belabor the metaphor a bit more, the trick is in getting the blend right. Anyone could mix the ingredients to mimic McDonald’s special sauce or White Spot’s secret sauce. The trick was in knowing the ratios of the ingredients. If you get the ratio right, customers like your sauce and will come back for it. Mess up the ratio, and customers will come once.

The Legal Organization’s Secret Sauce

Today, law firms of all sizes struggle because they don’t have a secret sauce — a differentiator. Look across the vast universe of solo, small and medium size law firms and you will see quite a few that look alike. Historically, the firms didn’t worry about differentiation. The secret sauce was relationships. The lawyers at the firm built relationships with their clients and the clients came to trust and rely upon the lawyers.

Relationships still are an important secret sauce — perhaps the most important secret sauce. But many clients want more. In an era where so much is accessible online, where competitors crop up daily, and where there are many more lawyers competing for work, relationships are necessary but not sufficient.

I believe the secret sauce for law firms, at least as law firms go through this transitional period, will be how they blend technology with human activities. The software emerging today doesn’t force lawyers to practice one way. It enables them to decide how to fit technology into their practices. Since standardization still is rare in the legal industry, that means each firm can choose its own mix of software and human skills to make something that works for the firm and its clients.

This approach has several advantages for firms and clients. For the firms, it means they can retain what they believe is important to the firm culture while stirring in those pieces of technology that work well within that culture. For clients, it means they will have choice. A client doesn’t want 200 law firms that operate all the same way. A client wants to choose the firm that has the blend of human and technology interaction that works best for it.

Right now, most law firms aren’t trying to come up with that blend. They are leaving it to clients to dictate what the firms should do. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a fan of going to a restaurant and telling the chef how to make the meal. I want the chef to make the meal, to delight me with the food and service, and to charge me a fair price. Get those three right and you have mastered the art of the secret sauce.

LackofStrategyTo succeed, you must embrace two rules about strategy. First, without a strategy your chance of success is near zilch. Second, whatever your strategy, it is wrong. Without a strategy, you will waste time on things irrelevant to success. With a strategy, your activities will focus on making that strategy successful. Whatever your strategy it is wrong because no one can accurately predict the future. But, since good strategies adapt to changing conditions, having a strategy will keep you on a path to achieving your organization’s goals.

Strategies focus attention. They give touchstones to guide curation of what to do or ignore. Because you see organizations achieving apparent success without visible strategies, it is tempting to think strategies are irrelevant. Look closer and you will see that, lacking strategies, these organizations are performing far below their peers.

A Strategy-Free Industry

The legal industry has been strategy free for its entire existence. Large law firms and law departments have operated year after year without strategic planning. They have tactical plans. They understand how they will spend money the next year, how many lawyers they plan to hire or fire, and other operational effectiveness steps. But, those aren’t strategic plans. Michael Porter, Harvard Business School professor and guru of strategy, says “Competitive strategy is about … deliberately choosing a different set of activities to deliver a unique mix of value.”

Look at what large law firms have done for the past 100 years and you will see each firm used the same activities to deliver the same mix of value as all other large law firms. Only in the past 10 years have a few firms stepped into the strategy world. You might be confused and say that large law firms have been very successful without strategies, so doesn’t that violate the first rule? Large law firms are only successful when compared to other law firms and as all law firms are learning today, that isn’t the right comparison group.

Success Isn’t What It Used To Be

The largest law firm has total global revenue under $3 billion. That isn’t enough to get on to the Fortune 500 list of largest corporations, much less a global list. Compare them to other professional service firms, such as accounting and consulting, and you can see the gap in performance. Each one of the Big Four accounting firms has global revenues in excess of $25 billion. The top consulting firms have revenues many times that of the largest law firm. In the domain of professional service firms competing to solve client problems, large law firms have fared poorly.

Law departments in corporations have not done much better. Since the creation of the modern law department in 1987, law departments have grown larger and have absorbed resources as they try to keep up with global laws, regulations, and compliance requirements. But, as with their law firm brethren, they have done so with tactical plans not strategies. Their plans have focused on how to build budgets with sufficient resources to fight corporate legal fires. Even the best run departments focus more on dealing with the past than creating the future.

Well-Constructed Strategies Overcome Being Wrong

Building a strategy gives an organization direction and helps it focus on activities that will deliver a unique mix of value. But, if the strategy will be wrong, why waste the resources? Strategies are wrong because they are predictions and no one knows the future. A well-constructed strategy focuses the organization on key activities that build value. As you learn the future you adjust the strategy, retaining key activities still critical to your organization’s success. The timing and emphasis on strategic components may change, but if you built the strategy well the value proposition and key attributes won’t change.

Being Everything to Everyone Isn’t a Strategy

You must be bold to commit to activities that will deliver a unique mix of value. For lawyers, it means abandoning the belief that you can be everything to everyone. Since that isn’t much of a strategy, you aren’t giving up much. Lawyers live today in what Boston Consulting Group calls the shaping quadrant (you are in the Professional Services group).

Source: Boston Consulting Group (click to enlarge)
Source: Boston Consulting Group (click to enlarge)

The legal industry fits the description for the shaping quadrant: “a mature industry that’s … fragmented and not dominated by a few powerful incumbents, or is stagnant and ripe for disruption.” A shaping strategy “embraces short or continual planning cycles. Flexibility is paramount, little reliance is placed on elaborate prediction mechanisms, and the strategy is most commonly implemented as a portfolio of experiments.” Lawyers in all organizations are experiencing disruption and should be developing strategies that define how they provide clients with unique value mixes. One quick test to know if you have a good strategy is to ask the question: if you didn’t articulate the strategy would your clients know why to hire you?

Having a Strategy is a Survival Strategy

The legal industry is struggling as law firms and law departments operate without strategies. If they don’t build successful strategies soon, clients will bypass them to find alternative solution providers. Those with strategies, such as accounting firms, consulting firms, and vendors in the legal industry, are more than willing to take away from lawyers the privilege of solving client problems. For lawyers, the question is simple: do you want to succeed or do you want to be left arguing why you were the best of the dinosaurs.

 

It is not about having time, it is about making timeWhat it takes to be a general counsel and what you are expected to do as a general counsel, are shifting. Joy Saphla, a managing director in Duff & Phelps’ Legal Management Consulting practice, has a good post on Inside Counsel titled, “Tips for new GCs: Developing a strategy, and why you need one.” I had the privilege to start as a general counsel three times, including two times when I was starting a new law department. In general, I agree with Joy’s advice. In particular, I agree with her comments about general counsel needing to change their mindsets and focus on strategy:

Historically, legal departments have largely defended against risk. Now, legal departments are charged with making good business decisions while managing legal risk and keeping cost down. In the future, general counsel must assist in not only fueling business growth while minimizing legal risk and associated cost, but also identifying opportunities and synergies.

We hear quite a bit about large law departments, but the reality is that the majority of law departments are small. The typical law department has fewer than 10 lawyers and often, even at large companies, may have only one or two lawyers.

For the general counsel, this creates something of a problem. Rather than having people who can do the work allowing the general counsel to focus on strategy, the general counsel finds herself buried in day-to-day work. Joy talks about using the chief of staff, COO, or other such person in the law department to keep metrics. Yet, in most law departments that person is the general counsel.

Nevertheless, a general counsel must find a way to rise above the flow of work and think strategically. To do so, general counsel must approach handling matters in new ways. They must replace or reduce labor so that they free up time for things only lawyers can do. Too often I see general counsel stuck in a rut – struggling to be strategic while at the same time fighting to retain the status quo in legal services delivery processes. That was the old model.

As we enter 2015, general counsel should re-think the legal services delivery processes used in their departments. Think back to where things were one year ago. If your department didn’t make substantial progress in reducing the effort it takes to get work done, you should increase focus on that area. To get time to focus on strategy you need to make time. Aggressively updating legal service delivery processes can free up that time while reducing the cost to provide legal services.

Never Eat Lunch Without Working on a Process

Keith Ferrazi wrote the popular book Never Eat Alone. The basic idea is to constantly build your network. So, with due apologies to Keith, if you want to improve processes and are pressed for time, never eat lunch without working on a process. Use the time for lunch to eat and process map, or improve an existing process, or develop metrics. If you get a few people together (assuming you don’t have a department of one), you can get more work done while socializing.

Lawyers typically are introverts, but they can get along with other lawyers and members of a law department. Spending that lunch time a few days a week working on processes means that you build better bonds and understanding of how processes work in your department, and you start making some improvements. It can be a lot more productive than surfing the web or looking at new cat videos.

Favorite leadership postsMany of you are enjoying a nice, quiet Friday after Christmas and are catching up on a little reading. Others are enjoying a nice, quiet Friday in the office and also are catching up on a little reading. Either way, it is a good time to reflect on some of the posts out of the almost 100 so far that have found their way on to SeytLines. As we re-group over the holidays, finish up those nagging end-of-the-year chores and prepare for the onslaught of the New Year, I hope you will find some of these Friday thoughts from the past informative and entertaining.

Are You Hallucinating? The Consequence of Innovation without Execution

The 4 Most Important Ways to Measure Law Department Effectiveness

3 Skills to Help You Innovate If You Aren’t Creative

8 Reasons You Shouldn’t Ignore Millennials

Speak Easy: Communication Among Lawyers and Clients

Running a Law Department in the Attention Economy

The Technology Paradox or How to do the Right Thing Wrong

What is the Modern Lawyer

 

It’s the day after turkey day here in the US and that means we have a brief break before we sprint to the end of the year. I’ve been looking through the SeytLines posts as I organize for next year and I’ve grouped a few of the more popular ones around some themes. In case you want to catch up on some of your missed reading, check out the links below.

Education

The 50 Law Students

Another Reason to Re-think Legal Education

Future for Lawyers

Any Work for Lawyers to do by 2020

Are Law Departments at Risk of Becoming Irrelevant

Why a Computer Won’t Replace Law Firm Associates Tomorrow

Lawyers, the End is Not Nigh for You Bring Wisdom

Overcoming the Distrust Factor

Technology

The Jay Test: Determining Legal Intelligence

What Lawyers Will Do as Technology Takes Over (Part 1)

What Lawyers Will Do as Technology Takes Over (Part 2)

What Lawyers Will Do as Technology Takes Over (Part 3)

Quality

The Elephant in the Room: Measuring Service Quality (Part 1)

The Elephant in the Room: Measuring Service Quality (Part 2)

Innovation

Location, Location, Innovation (Part 1)

Location, Location, Innovation (Part 2)

Location, Location, Innovation (Part 3)

Design and the Legal Industry

Change

The Real Moneyball Lesson for Lawyers

A Skinnerian View of Why Lawyers Don’t Change (Part 1)

A Skinnerian View of Why Lawyers Don’t Change (Part 2)

8 Reasons You Shouldn’t Ignore Millennials

For those of you in the US, enjoy the rest of your vacation and for those of you outside the US, enjoy your weekend.

In the UK, the march toward democratization of legal services delivery continues as

Source: Antony Bearpark

more firms are granted ABS (Alternative Business Structure) licenses and clarify their plans to take over part of the legal services market. So far, much of the attention is focused in the sub-markets for individual legal services and SME (small and medium enterprise) legal services. But, of course, this is what Clayton Christensen (The Innovator’s Dilemma) predicts. Disruptive innovation starts at the low end and progressively moves toward the high end.

The news about ABS licenses comes at the same time we hear that US based law firms are creeping up on UK law firms in the battle for the UK legal services market. A recent report by The Lawyer shows that US firms are overtaking UK firms. When looking at the top 100 firms in the UK by revenue, UK firms still lead in the 1 – 20 ranking, but non-UK firms and particularly US firms dominate in the 21 – 40 rankings. While I haven’t purchased and read the entire 413 page report, other anecdotal information suggests that US firms are poaching lawyers from the UK firms, which is driving at least part of the growth. Compensation for partners at US firms continues to be substantially higher, than compensation for partners at UK firms.

Although it is too early to call the game, it is possible that law departments are watching a barbell structure develop in the UK legal market. A barbell structure is the visually appealing description of a market with a large presence at the high end, a large presence at the low end, and a thinned out market in between. For example, in the US retail market we have seen a barbell structure develop. High-end retailers have done well and low end retailers have done well, but the mid-market retailers have been squeezed so hard that most don’t exist any more.

In the UK, we may see the ABS licensed entities taking over the lower end of the market, and the major US and UK law firms taking over the high end of the market. The question will be what happens in the middle.

For a law department, this evolving structure presents some interesting questions. Do you split your work between high and low end, choosing an appropriate firm for each segment? Or, do you find a firm which ramps up its ability to handle the low-end work efficiently and also use that firm for the high-end work? There are some firms who are experimenting with providing more efficient service models for the low end while retaining their high-end work appeal.

Some law departments are going a third path. Rather than putting all their eggs in one basket or splitting them between two baskets, the law departments are keeping the eggs to themselves. These law departments are increasing staffing and increasingly trying to become the preferred alternative to sending work to any outside law firms.

As I said, it is far too early to call the game. To me, the riskiest proposition seems to be keeping all the eggs in the in-house basket. Doing so puts a tremendous burden on the law department. The in-house lawyers are not exposed to the breadth of situations outside lawyers see (and here, I’m talking about situations relevant to their client). The in-house lawyers must have adequate resources to keep on top of developments in their area and developments that may affect their area, rather than using an extended network to do so. The in-house team must be able to flex, build technological capabilities, and so on. In other words, the law department must now be on an equal footing with a law firm and that means taking on a large administrative as well as substantive burden.

Other departments followed this path in the past. Corporate IT and HR departments, for example, attempted to become self-sufficient. Both found that doing so required more resources than the effort justified and, typically, scaled back. They each asked themselves the fundamental question – is it the business of a corporate department to do everything or to add strategic value? Assuming the answer is the latter, then keeping the corporate department a modest sized scaled to that mission makes more sense than bulking up.

Many law departments are bulking up, because doing so equates fairly quickly to a cost savings. Lawyers in law departments cost less than lawyers in law firms, and when there is an abundance of lawyers on the market, a general counsel can quickly bring down costs by trading outside lawyers for inside lawyers. Long term, however, I think this is a difficult strategy to sustain. I would rather see my in-house team focus on strategic value and push the outside lawyers to become extremely efficient at handling the routine. I can leverage the outside lawyers for very high end or labor-intensive work when needed, but my in-house team should be composed of those who can help the business strategically.

Although much attention is being focused on what is happening with law firms in the current, choppy legal market, the more interesting question is where our clients will go. Some clients are going the route of the single-source provider, other clients are reducing their use of outside counsel to the bare minimum, and most are still using a mixed model. I think, however, that the mixed model is the least defensible in the changing legal market and over the next decade it should be the one that fewer law departments choose to use.

Source: Control Risks Group Holdings Ltd.

When I started my in-house law career, it wasn’t hard to find a Fortune 500 company that had very modest business activity outside the US. In fact, I joined such a company when I moved from law firm to law department. For our law department, work involving foreign countries or cross-border issues was a bit exotic and exciting. But, when I retired from practicing law in-house 20 years later, even very small companies routinely had business activity in multiple locations outside the US. My last company, a Fortune 1000 organization, had connections to at least 200 countries and territories. Many in-house lawyers are now living in the age of geopolitical lawyering.

You may think that just because a company does business outside the US, the lawyering isn’t geopolitical, just more complex. If you think purely in technical terms, you may be right. But, if you think in strategic or risk management terms, you are missing something. Consider this summary paragraph from a recent McKinsey & Company report:

After identifying geopolitical instability as a top risk to global growth for three successive surveys, executives now also cite it most often as a threat to both near- and long-term growth in their own economies. In fact, since we first asked about geopolitical risk, the threat it poses to economic growth has hit record levels in McKinsey’s newest survey on economic conditions.1 This increase also reflects respondents’ growing concern about volatility in the Middle East and North Africa. While they have been mostly bullish about the global economy since December 2013, executives are far less optimistic now. Only 39 percent expect global economic conditions will improve in the next six months, compared with 59 percent in our June survey.

If the business faces geopolitical risks, then the law department should be actively working on ways to manage those risks. And this is where the legal transformation comes in to play. The legal transformation gives you a chance to play a leading role in what is very important to your client.

My challenge to general counsel is this: if you need to think about complex, multi-jurisdictional legal issues and add to that geopolitical risks, how can you not do everything possible to streamline your routine work? You probably aren’t getting additional staff and your outside spending may be capped (maybe it is going down). The complex geopolitical issues are the type of thing lawyers find most interesting. Lawyers finding ways to support business growth while managing risk in this rapidly changing global environment serves two purposes: it gives the lawyers the type of work they find most interesting, and it connects the lawyers directly to the needs of the business. Why do you want your attorneys spending their days churning out more paper on mundane things, when you have at your fingertips the means to cut that waste?

The legal industry is going through structural change. But, with that change comes enormous opportunities. Now is the time for general counsel leaders to demand that their outside counsel help lift the burden of routine work and channel the skills and experiences of all attorneys, in-house and outside, into the new challenges our clients are facing and will conquer – with or without us.

 

The legal transformation underway is, in some ways, an effort by lawyers to catch up. Finance, marketing, operations, logistics, and other corporate departments have been focusing on productivity for decades. Now that lawyers are under the “more for less” pressure, we are catching up to our peers on that productivity curve. The situation isn’t unusual, since law is more of a follower profession than a leader profession. But, now that we have joined the peloton we should avoid some of the mistakes made by those who rode before us.

One quick way to reduce costs, many general counsel believe, is to move from a higher hourly billing rate to a lower hourly rate. In fact, studies show that changing from a higher rate to a lower rate does not have the desired effect. Assuming the reduced rates didn’t come with a drop in quality, the more powerful determinant of cost is efficiency. In a particular case involving specific lawyers and a certain matter, lower rates may result in a lower overall cost. But, across many lawyers and many matters, and assuming no change in quality, it takes a very big change in rates to bring down overall costs. That is, asking for a 10% discount won’t have the effect you think it might.

General counsel also believe that, as a general rule, if they want a big change in rates, moving from outside lawyers to in-house lawyers can get them there. When I was a general counsel, I would routinely calculate the cost per hour of each lawyer in the law department and compare that to what I paid outside lawyers. Typically, an in-house lawyer cost well under $200 per hour, and that was for a lawyer who was the equivalent of an outside lawyer who had been a partner for at least five years. Given the huge cost disparity, there was a big advantage to bringing work in-house if it otherwise made sense to do so.

Today, many general counsel have decided it does make sense to bring more work in-house and are doing so. An article in The Wall Street Journal by Jennifer Smith covers this trend. This approach has some intuitive appeal. In the near term, costs go down. In-house lawyers become very familiar with the client, and gain some efficiencies that are hard to get when you are outside counsel. I used this approach as a general counsel. It works especially well when you are building a new law department or adding to an existing small law department in a rapidly growing company.

Think Long-Term When Hiring

Today, however, I’m going to argue that for the most part, adding lawyers in house is not the right move. The transformation in the legal industry is taking us from a craft-based industry into a partially technology-based industry. While the transformation is just beginning, already we see how we can transfer many routine tasks from people to technology. We also see how other professionals, such as project managers and statisticians, can help us drive significant efficiencies in legal service delivery.

General counsel should evaluate these developments and consider whether staffing by adding additional attorneys is the right move. Historically, law departments looked much like a basket of apples. There were some variations, but for most part the law department-staffing model was to hire lots of the same type. Hiring more lawyers might be counterproductive for the forward-looking law department.

For example, a law department might gain much more in efficiency, productivity, and even quality by adding project managers and process excellence practitioners who could help re-structure the department’s work.  Often in-house lawyers spend a large portion of their time (up to 50% is not uncommon) on administrative or other tasks. General counsel should check whether these tasks could be significantly reduced or eliminated. Then the general counsel should ask who really should do whatever is left. That can be the right time to see if technology can pick up part of the load.

This “exotic” combination of skills within a law department will drive many benefits. The complementary skills mean it is less likely lawyers will end up doing tasks for which they are over qualified or under qualified. Perspectives from different professionals will yield richer service delivery solution sets.

General counsel also should consider the experiences in other departments, such as human resources and IT. The trend for many years was for these departments (and others) to bring work in-house and increase staff accordingly. Each department made the same argument that lawyers make today about reducing costs by using in-house staff versus outside staff. Over time, however, these departments realized that many things they were doing could be done more efficiently and at a lower cost by outside providers.

The shift happened as the outside providers became more proficient at providing routine services. A large IT provider handling work for many customers can find ways to automate tasks and drive efficiencies that just are not feasible for a single department. The outside providers also invested in technology solutions that were cost prohibitive for a single department. By providing services for many customers, outside providers gained specialized knowledge beyond what any single department would typically generate. Providing many services has become so specialized, that doing them in-house doesn’t make sense.

Lawyers have seen the same type of thing happen in the substance of law over many years. The novelty lies in the application of this principle [principal?] to service delivery rather than substance. For example, very few law departments handle all aspects of lawsuits in-house. Law firms are much better equipped to handle lawsuits, and have much more experience handling them (again, as a general rule – there always are exceptions). Most law departments also do not have significant depth in ERISA, tax, complex M&A, or other smaller specialties such as complex financing, aircraft leasing, and so on. While a company might have a high concentration of work in one or more of these areas, most companies do not. Law firms, however, develop practices concentrated in these areas. Similarly, today legal service vendors (including law firms) may have much higher expertise in project management, the application of technology to law, process improvement, or statistical analysis of legal matters.

By hiring aggressively, general counsel can reduce overall legal spending in the near term. But, that hiring comes with some added complications in this period of significant change.

First, without attention to processes, adding staff complicates workflow and typically decreases productivity. The decrease is masked because volume through put goes up. In other words, the law department becomes less efficient, but it is hard to see because overall the department is handling more matters. Second, ancillary costs increase with additional staffing. General counsel may not build in costs for training, software, and the additional complexities of deploying changes. Third, as alternative, less costly, and more productive solutions come online, general counsel face the hard choice of having to terminate staff to move to those solutions, or sticking with staff even though doing so means a less flexible and more costly operation.

Process First, Then Staffing

The legal industry, law departments included, is in an unfortunate rut. Whenever the work level justifies it, lawyers’ move to additional staffing. It is time to break out of that rut and adopt practices consistent with present day cost management and productivity practices. General counsel could make significant gains, with the gains exceeding any third party cost, by undertaking in-depth project management and process improvement programs. By doing these programs first, general counsel avoid locking waste into law department operations with additional staff or technology.

 

Today, we introduce SeytLines, the newest in the Seyfarth Shaw LLP blog family. There is a wonderful universe of law bloggers. Some, including our sister Seyfarth blogs, focus on substantive aspects of law. Others focus on selected non-substantive topics, such as technology in law. Another group provides knowledgeable and sometimes provocative commentary on the state of the legal industry. Collectively, their voices give us interesting viewpoints and creative thinking, and today they form a leading source for discussion about the law.

Place for a New Voice

Yet, as we looked around and considered what is going on in the legal industry, it seemed there was space for another voice. We think SeytLines can be that voice leading discussion on non-substantive aspects of practicing law. SeytLines will cover five major areas: innovation, strategy, efficiency, change, and leadership. If this list seems broad, we hope so. We want to talk about what lawyers should do and are doing and cover the broad spectrum of issues facing our industry. In our view, our industry is better served, and more importantly our clients are better served, when we continually up the ante on how to do what we do.

Make it a Positive Voice

If you spend time on Twitter or reading articles and posts about the legal industry, you might conclude the end of lawyers and lawyering is near. Even titles of some leading books on change in the industry, such as Avoiding Extinction (by Mitch Kowalski) and The End of Lawyers? (by Richard Susskind), suggest our time is limited.

We are in a period of great change. In the sea of pessimism about the legal industry’s difficulties, we choose to be optimists and follow the wisdom of Winston Churchill: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

We invite you to follow along as we explore those opportunities.