Since not everyone reads Twitter, I reproduce here a selection of my recent Tweets.
NLJ reports 2010 lawyer billing rates up ‘only’ 2.7% http://bit.ly/gDX2gE || If that’s post realization, exceeds inflation and most markets 6 Dec
Reading ‘Do You Think I Should Go to Law School?’ by @attnyatwork http://bit.ly/fkAWsQ || multiple answers, including mine 7 Dec
RT @alexander_group Telecommuters: Really Working? bnet.io/fMAKTo || gd read. If you don’t trust lawyers working at home, fire them 7 Dec
For Word 2010, how did Microsoft decide what goes under Insert v Reference menus? Distinctions seem arbitrary / non-intuitive to me. 9 Dec
@legal_week Beachcroft lays out new structure of free-standing claims division http://bit.ly/gmjfss | Another UK #LawFactory. When in US? 9 Dec
RT @amlawdaily Cost Reduction is Good, Cost Certainty is Better http://bit.ly/gmqkT6 || Must read overview of legal market trends 10 Dec
Citi Managing Partner Confidence Index via WSJ (PDF) http://on.wsj.com/fXRtOF - documents price pressure BigLaw faces 10 Dec
The Lawyer: UK law firms “mired in an intellectual dead-end” + no “coherent vision of disaggregated legal services” http://bit.ly/dWnU6N || 13 Dec 2010
The Australian: Seismic change to shift legal scene forever http://bit.ly/dGGHve || Observer calls law firms clueless. Oz is canary for US 16 Dec 2010
Legal spend % revenue by @ReesMorrison: Rev>$20B 0.22% // 10B<20B 0.31% // 4B<10 0.30% // http://bit.ly/eflJk0 || Scale matters 16 Dec 2010
Offshoring your lawyer http://goo.gl/B3T1Q || The Economist on legal process outsourcing (LPO) impact - could be big 16 Dec 2010
RT @denniskennedy: The 2010 Blawggie Awards have just been announced: http://bit.ly/giQLv8 #blawggies || Thnx for featuring my blog 21 Dec 2010
My new Integreon blog post: Fronterion Predicts Promising LPO Developments in 2011 http://bit.ly/gIppDp || comments on top ten list 21 Dec 2010
Xerox press release re Smart Doc Review http://bit.ly/hFvBsv || Collaborative hardware neat but is it commercially viable? #eDiscovery 22 Dec 2010
Competing With Your Advisors http://bit.ly/e4H4SO || more re Thomson Reuters acquiring legal outsourcing provider (LPO) Pangea3 22 Dec 2010
A front-page article in the Friday New York Times raises the issue of the divide between science and humanities. Lurking here a lesson for lawyers.
In 500 Billion Words, New Window on Culture describes Google’s recently released Books Ngram Viewer, which analyzes how often phrases occur in the world’s books over the years. The article is less about N-Gram, however, than it is about the divide between disciplines:
“Despite the frequent resistance to quantitative analysis in some corners of the humanities, [one of the scientists involved] said he was confident that the use of this and similar tools would ‘become universal.’ Reactions from humanities scholars who quickly reviewed the article were more muted.”
The scientists seek to “demonstrate how vast digital databases can transform our understanding of language, culture and the flow of ideas.” They applied “high turbo data analytics” to humanities questions in what they coin “culturomics”. For example, “they found technological advances took, on average, 66 years to be adopted by the larger culture in the early 1800s and only 27 years between 1880 and 1920″. The article suggests humanists cannot cope with data.
The legal market faces a similar divide between disciplines. Law focuses on text, business on numbers. Lawyers look for small subsets of cases to find distinctions and similarities; business people look for large amounts data to find trends. Lawyers solve one narrow problem, business people broad problems.
The divide is not just academic, as both an anecdote and a recently published survey illustrate. First, my anecdote: The immediate reaction from a senior corporate associate when I suggested learning spreadsheets: “Ron, you don’t understand. The reason I went to law school is so that I would not have to deal with numbers.” (OK. Perhaps that explains investment bankers earnings relative to lawyers.)
Anecdotes add up to data: The Third Annual Law Department Operations Survey, a December 2010 joint publication of InsideCounsel and the Blickstein Group found that “[f]ewer than half of the respondents have a formalized metrics / reporting program.”
With the cost pressures GCs face, the lack of metrics is damning. Once I might have latched onto time or budget constraints to explain the lacuna. Now I think it is discipline divide. Lawyers just do not focus on numbers and management. Like the humanists the the Times article, lawyers sit on the side while the business managers crunch the data to see what’s really happening.
The difference, however, is that practicing lawyers hold power and make key decisions. A week of MBA-type classes some law firms provide for lawyers does not overcome a lifetime spent avoiding data. Professional managers in large law firms have become more business minded (and have several MBA programs they can attend) but ultimately they have much less power than partners.
We need to bridge the lawyer divide between text and number. Doing so might go further than many other current initiatives meant to reduce costs and improve legal performance.
[Two minor points on the above:
1. The law departments metrics lacuna is bleaker than it seems: I assume that the LDO survey goes to law departments with a Director of Legal Operations position, So it self-selects for those companies that are more advanced in managing the law department and therefore are more likely to have metrics. A reasonable inference is that the percent of all law departments using metrics is even lower.
2. The text v. numbers and cases v. data-crunching reasoning divides may well affect our view of the law itself. Will practicing lawyers rush to analyze what we might infer from changes in word and phrase occurrence over time? Not many but at least one so far. Trends in Law, as Seen By Google’s Ngram by Bob Ambrogi illustrates the power of Google’s new tool for legal analysis. See his graphs for phrase pairs such as “law firm partner, law firm associate” and “intellectual property law, securities law, corporate finance” trend over time. Very interesting.]
We are overwhelmed by information and data. What we lack is the wisdom and insight to take simple steps to improve what we do. So I am pleased to see a new service and website that focuses on the latter rather than the former.
Attorney at Work is a new website that “promises you one really good idea every day.” These ideas are for practicing lawyers and for law practice managers. An all-star cast of legal market thought leaders offers concise, practical, and actionable tips in digestable form - just 300 to 500 words. Sign up here for daily e-mail. Or subscribe to the RSS feed.
The service just went live but I am already impressed with the daily tips and advice. Examples include not obsessing over new technology (what, moi?) and dealing with an angry client.
Speaking of technology, Attorney at Work raises an interesting question of choosing to get information by e-mail versus an RSS feed. Both are available but this service stresses e-mail. I think for busy lawyers and law practice managers, that is the right answer. My anecdotal survey suggests that RSS users are overwhelmed by information rivers and oceans (hat tip to Toby Brown at 3 Geeks). And I regularly fear the echo chamber effect, so I do not want to assume widespread RSS use; in fact, I suspect the percent is smaller than many think.
Delivery mechanisms is a topic for another day. Whatever way works for you, I suggest you subscribe.
Recently I have been exploring ”Law Factory” – the concept that the legal market will offer low cost, industrialized processes for routine work that are separate from “bet the farm” operations for high-stakes matters. An open question is whether the two can co-exist under one roof. Recent news points to one way for the two to co-exist.
Herbert Smith to open Belfast office to handle disputes document review in Legal Week (24 Nov 2010) reports that UK law firm, Herbert Smith will open a wholly-owned document review center in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Belfast is a relatively low cost, onshore location in the UK.
Herbert Smith is prominent for its strong and large litigation practice, definitely a ‘bet the farm’ firm. So what motivated opening a separate law factory? Sonya Leydecker, the partner responsible for the Belfast center explains that the Belfast Center
“will enable us to offer clients a combination of quality, efficiency and value for money. Clients are increasingly looking to their lawyers for more imaginative approaches to the management of disputes. In particular, complex projects such as disclosure are important but can increasingly be systematised and managed in new ways. The Belfast office will make a new range of resourcing options available to clients.” [See the Herbert Smith press release.]
A few large firms have low-cost, captive centers to support their middle offices or law practices: Orrick (Wheeling, WV), Wilmer Hale (Dayton, OH), White & Case (Manila), Baker McKenzie (Manila), and Clifford Chance (Delhi). Other firms work with legal process outsourcing companies to achieve a similar effect. (I work for Integreon, an LPO that offers such services.)
These examples illustrate how large firms can move some of their support needs to lower cost centers with economics more like LawFactory than Bet the Farm. An open question is whether the same is true for entire practice areas. Consider that only a few large US firms have immigration law practices. Or that large US law firms with big employment law practices tend to have lower cost structures and margins their BigLaw brethren.
Over time, additional law practices may be subject to the same cost pressures as immigration and employment law. If so, it will be interesting to see whether BigLaw finds a way to run them as Law Factories or if they spin off into separate firms. As for the factory elements integral to BigLaw-Bet-the-Farm cases, the pressure will increase to find lower cost ways of managing them.
I think quite a bit is happening in the legal market to develop the LawFactory concept but The Lawyer takes a seemingly different view. Authority figures add up (today, 13 Dec 2010) is rather critical of UK law firms response to the Legal Services Act. “No firm, as yet, has come up with a coherent vision of disaggregated legal services and applied it forensically across the business, with all the HR shake-up that implies.”
I welcome reader comments on or examples of the Law Factory idea.
Last week I was honored to learn that this blog, Strategic Legal Technology, is a 2010 ABA Journal Blawg 100, the second year in a row for this award .
ABA Journal editors “scour the Web to bring you the best and brightest law bloggers in a variety of categories.” Within each of the dozen categories of blogs, readers can vote for their favorite blog. If you would like to vote for this blog - or for one of the other excellent blogs in the Legal Tech category - please visit the Legal Tech page of the The 2010 ABA Journal Blawg 100. You will need to register to vote.
Since not everyone reads Twitter, I reproduce here a selection of my recent Tweets.
So far (2 weeks), AT&T iPhone 4 as flaky as Sprint BlackBerry. Just had to power cycle b/c Settings got stuck w/o way bk to main screen 24 Sep 2010
RT @lposavvy LPO start-ups target PI as Berwin Leighton Paisner expands Managed Legal Service http://bit.ly/d4wacI || LSA spurs more in UK 24 Sep 2010
legalweek - A&O breaks into thought-leadership business with dedicated research arm http://bit.ly/cFYpNc || good innovation 30 Sep 2010
Heard at Masters Conference pre-event: lawyers are ‘aggressively oblivious’ about #eDiscovery’ #MASTERs2010 #in 3 Oct 2010
The Lawyer: Slaughters sets up panel for outsourced business http://bit.ly/cGVTKL || If Slaughters is doing this, who is not? 4 Oct 2010
Thomson Reuters buys Serengeti, leading corp matter management + e-billing provider http:bit.ly/b3PEwP || Is DataCert only ind. e-bill co. now? 5 Oct 2010
Legal Week: Mayer Brown sold its UK corporate secretarial practice to outsourcing provider http://bit.ly/9KQ7xT || move toward #LawFactory 5 Oct 2010
@vmaryabraham little value in task codes - what’s better? #arkkm | not sure. better codes or more accurate use. maybe consistent key words 24 Oct 2010
Do in-house litigators really manage litigation? Or do they focus on strategy and substance? Lawyering v legal project management? #in 31 Oct 2010
Kluwer: Inexpensive On-Line Mediation and Arbitration http://bit.ly/9gILke || GE using online arbitration. Good #LawFactory example. 1 Nov 2010
NLJ 250 lawyers in 2010 down 1.1% after 2009 4% drop http://bit.ly/9zdVru || Impact on future headcount if clients use law firm alternates? 6 Nov 2010
FICO using Pramata #contracts for 3 yrs 10mil data items from 45k. 7k customers, 400 products, 330 users, integrate w ERP, new K in w/i 24h 10 Nov 2010
Legal Week: A&O saves over £1m with IT outsourcing deal http://bit.ly/9xsY0I || moved more servers to @SavvisInc 10 Nov 2010
RT @integreonedd Google Releases Data Cleanser http://bit.ly/djHEYU || cool tools for structured data needing clean up 11 Nov 2010
Staff lay-offs at Howrey and DLA Piper last week. Blips, trend, or small but steady stream adjusting to new flat demand? #in 15 Nov 2010
Do lawyers who travel with PC across US border - where subject to search + seizure for no reason - risk waiving privilege? #in 17 Nov 2010
Wells Fargo, bankers to law firms, predicts more staff cuts. NLJ http://bit.ly/fmZOBO || Can firms keep cutting way to profits? 26 Nov 2010
Reading @jordan_law21 The new battlefield: convenience http://bit.ly/fq8cH5 || How convenient are most BigLaw firms to use? 3 Dec 2010