The legal industry is often described as law new, but it is actually fresh icing on an old stale cake. New icing adds flavor and color, but it does not change the cake’s shape or substance. It is not a substitute for transformational change in the legal profession’s business model and culture. The “new” label primarily applies to new strategies, technologies and processes that legal practitioners can leverage to serve their clients in ways that they could not before.
A recent example is California’s new law prohibiting stores from charging different prices for identical products based on gender, in an effort to end the so-called “pink tax.” Another example is legal firms developing and using innovative technology tools and methodologies to meet client needs, including document automation and artificial intelligence (AI). Such innovations can enable lawyers to provide services that would otherwise be impossible or very costly to deliver.
Many in-house and law firm teams are embracing these new approaches. But most have yet to fully transform their business models and cultures to incorporate them. Law firms must shift from a fee-driven economic model to one that is purpose driven, customer centric and data backed. This shift will require that they embrace collaboration, and develop a platform-based delivery structure from which agile, fluid, on demand resources with verifiable, material expertise can be sourced. Profit will no longer come from adherence to a fee-based model that is dependent upon input but from a value-based model fueled by output and net promoter score.
This transformation is not a simple technical/digital shift but requires significant cultural and human adaptation. It involves a paradigm shift from legal services to legal impact, and the ability to proactively identify, manage and eliminate risk, create opportunities, and free up management time to focus on core business objectives. It requires the legal function and its cross-functional enterprise colleagues to possess data agility: mastery of key elements such as capture, unification, applied human/AI and data science, visualization, real time refresh and decision driving.
It also requires that the legal industry more closely resemble its corporate customers and society at large. This will mean a more holistically diverse, demographically, culturally and experientially mixed industry workforce that is creative, tech and data proficient, empathetic and collaborative. It will be integrated, internally focused and work seamlessly with a range of cross-functional business units to provide accessible, affordable, on-demand, scalable, data-backed, solutions-based legal products and services that are in step with the speed of business and society. Legal providers will deliver value by delivering customer/end-user impacts that drive higher satisfaction and lower costs, not by focusing on internal efficiency as an end in itself.