Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Failing on the Back of a Napkin: An Approach to Business Models for Every Lawyer

To succeed, you must fail.  It is true.  We know this, yet so many of us divert our energy away from activities that might allow us to fail.  Personally this might be called a character flaw.  Professionally this is, simply stated, deadly.   If you do not believe me read any book about innovation, leadership, or better yet entrepreneurship and the start-up culture.  In order to remain on top in any business (yes law is a business) an organization must be testing on the micro-level, different services/products, and on the macro-level, more business models.  And they must be failing in order to make progress.  

The legal profession is not one where failing or experimentation is celebrated or embraced.  Precedent and status quo are more meaningful.  Can anyone argue with the statement that using a 60 year old business model in the year 2012 may not be the wisest thing to do?  How many US law firms have changed their model over the last five or six decades?  Contrast that with how many new models we are seeing come out of the start-up world?  It is cliché but true – evolve or die.

Evolution in the business world is evident when an organization pivots its direction or strategy.  Another example would be when an organization offers a new product/service that represents at least a reasonable amount of potential value to its customers.  For example adding a blog to a website, discounting bills, or providing free legal forms (static or generated) is not evolving a business model.  These may be complimentary services or “value-adds” (hate that phrase BTW.)  Changing a business model alters the revenue paths that the organization creates in a significant way.  To use another cliché, IBM moving from a hardware manufacturer to a knowledge provider – that is a model shift.

For the full article go HERE

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Law Schools Meet Ed-Tech: Innovation of the Platform

Hundreds of millions of private and public sector dollars are pouring into educational technology (“Ed-Tech”).  Ed-Tech, broadly speaking, is the use of technology to enhance the teaching and learning process.  Ed-Tech has progressed far beyond posting recorded lectures and PowerPoints on the web.  That is Ed-Tech 1.0.  We are in the dawn of Ed-Tech 2.0, in which “huge advances in computing power,” combined with advances in simulations, digital gaming, and social collaborative networking, among other technologies, have raised the capabilities of Ed-Tech to new heights.  Inspired by the promise of Ed-Tech, the venture world injected nearly half a billion dollars in 2011 into the industry through 80+ investment deals;  the United States government is expending substantial federal monies to fund programs designed to enrich education through technology; and colleges and universities have leapt into the fray too.  The time is ripe for law schools to enter the mix.  

Read full article HERE

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

You Get What You Pay for in Legal Education but ...

This is a terrific piece by the Dean of UCI law school in which he takes on (and agrees with many of) the criticisms and points about law school failing.  But he also has the courage to address where he thinks much of the criticism is wrong.  Further he is open enough to disclose some cost figures for operating his school.  And he makes a good case.

What is missing from the vast majority of all the recent articles and debates on the failings of law school however, is the potential role technology or ed-tech could play.  By integrating ed-tech, law schools could lower costs while maintaining, if not increasing, the overall value of the education.  

It seems many of the solutions posed by many are too heavily focused on human capital and curriculum.  Why not explore enhancing the delivery of education beyond the in-person talking head or group leader (clinics) and consider what the rest of higher-ed is ... integrating ed-tech. 

You get what you pay for in legal education

See Article here

Monday, July 9, 2012

Pay as you go Law School

Joshua Kubicki (jkubicki): Why an online pay-as-you-go model could be the future of higher #education. http://bit.ly/MgBIKE http://twitter.com/jkubicki/status/222518014132752386 retweet of @FastCoExist tweet (Sent via Seesmic http://www.seesmic.com)

Perhaps this would not work for traditional US based students but think about the "adult" learners, second career, foreign lawyers, and CA state bar takers that this might appeal to.

Would any law school do it? Would the ABA even allow it?

I think making education more accessible is never a bad thing even a legal education.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Typing Class in Law School

I took typing in high school.  Do they even offer that anymore?  Sure there is a high need for all folks to know how to enter text into a device but it is not based on the “F” and “J” keys of a standard keyboard anymore.  Today we use everything from gestures to speech to alpha-numeric keys.  The rules of grammar and punctuation have changed as well.  The need to learn typing as we did 20 years ago is simply not there.  So why are law schools teaching the equivalent of typing 101 in an age when so much is changing in the legal profession?

Law schools have been getting a lot of press lately – mostly negative as a result of a horrible job market for lawyers.  Recently there has been a storyline that has been getting some positive reaction and we could not be more frustrated.  In the face of a declining traditional lawyer job market some schools reaction has been to lower class admissions.  What? Huh?  Come again.  So as job market weakens the educational institutional bedrock of the legal profession’s response is to retract, wait it out, and otherwise do nothing?  That is a sure fire way to perpetuate the commercial myth that lawyers lack imagination and certainly any business acumen.  Come on – we are a bunch of smart people (so we say) – we cannot do any better than hiding in our shells?

Sure reducing the number of law graduates may decrease – a good thing as traditional legal jobs are decreasing too.  And yes it shows (sort of) law schools willingness to give up some of their profit/revenue.  But seriously, this is as creative and as proactive the legal education community can be?  The problem is not a lack of jobs, it is that law schools are attempting to prepares law students for jobs that are decreasing overall – traditional law firm jobs.  They are doing this while NOT changing their curriculum to prepare law students for the new normal.  There are a bevy of skill/focuses law schools could be introducing into their status quo curriculum that would better prepare students for new types of legal jobs – heck this could even lead to an increase in enrollment.  Who would of thunk it?  A new business line or even, dare I say it, model.

Law schools unfortunately are so afraid to jettison the “holy grail” image of a lawyer they promulgate to prospective students – you now the one, a power suit, mahogany corner office and top tier clients – that they simply are paralyzed to take sincere action to correct a failing education platform.  But here is the thing, law schools are not the problem and should not be demonized – because they are also the answer.  They are the first “touch” a future lawyer gets of the profession.  They have the unique opportunity to set expectations and help define lifetime professional goals.  Thus they should not be lowering expectations or saying the equivalent of “Hmm yeah we guess it is tough out there – let’s just send less of you out into the job market and hope for the best.”  What they should be acting on is the fact that the profession is changing and they are going to address this head on by preparing students for a new market.  One where traditional law jobs are not as available, where the very nature of legal work is changing, where needs of clients and clients themselves are changing, where realities like LPOs and Rocket Lawyers are here to stay.  Where value has trumped the billable hour.  

Just like how we use gestures, texting jargon, alpha-numeric pads, speech-to-text, etc. today to communicate, law schools should look to teach all the different and new ways there are to practice law and deliver legal services.  If not that, then what are student’s paying for?  Typewriters in law professor’s offices?  God I hope not.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Tiny Bubbles (Law is Transforming)

Recently I spoke at TyMetrix’s Executive Advisory Summit - a meeting of key clients, industry leaders and TyMetrix executives.  We spent two days examining and sharing experiences of how legal services are being re-imagined, delivered and yes, staying the same.  My remarks focused on the topic of legal transformation and the role that project management may be playing in changing the way legal services are delivered.  

The key takeaway for me was the growing awareness of data within the profession.  This would be an obvious takeaway given the sponsor is a leading legal data analytics company but that was not it.  There was little talk of their product at all actually.  Rather, the legal operations leaders who were in attendance spoke about the power of using their own data to help create transparency into their operations.  “Transparency” . . . a scary word for law firms indeed.  And these legal ops people were getting it – transparency that is – into how they spend their money and how their legal departments manage time, resources, etc.   There was a divide within the room however.  One group of in-house folks could be called activists – teaching, instructing and forcing their outside counsel to comply with their procedures and process.  The other group was using their process and data only for their own internal purposes, allowing outside counsel to continue doing what they have been.   

Now I have railed on about both data and the absolute need for in-house to take a more active role in changing law firm behavior in previous posts so I will not step into those waters again here.  The good thing is that I do not have to.  Change is here and growing.  I do not have to convince anyone that the way law is practiced is changing and will do so more.  It is happening.  Slowly and invisible to those that choose to hide their eyes but it is unavoidable.  The more the industry awakens the more rapidly the change will happen.  Data is being used now more than ever by legal departments and that is a good thing.  I do not care right now that some are using it to change others' behaviors, while others just their own.  They are using it and that is good enough . . . for now anyway.

I do not have to stand and stare at the pot of water on the stove as I wait for it to boil.  I see the tiny bubbles here and there and know that it is only a matter of time until it becomes a rolling boil.