♫ And I’m hangin’ on best as I can
Cause I know this whole crazy ride’s in Your hands
It’s Your plan… ♫
Music, Lyrics and recorded by: Dustin Lynch.
What business are lawyers in? This is the fundamental question that we face at this time. Many would answer that question that we are in the business of providing legal services. But are we? Is that the best way to characterize what we do? And why is this important?
This is vital, in my view, for one simple reason. The legal world today is in decline. We are letting others eat our cake for the simple reason that we are failing to meet the needs of all of our potential clients. The evidence is everywhere if you look for it, such as the rise of the self-represented litigant, the growth of websites such as www.legalzoom.com and the cry that the middle class can no longer afford lawyers.
The railroads once saw themselves as being in the railroad business. As a result, other methods of moving goods arose such as planes, trucks and automobiles. What the railroads failed to recognize is that they were in the transportation business, not the railroad business. And I submit that we, as a profession, are caught in the same myopia.
How do we define what business we are in? We need some thoughtful leadership here to help the profession build a business plan to its future. We are problem solvers. We are facilitators. We are dispute resolvers. But without leadership and a vision of where we can go, I fear that the profession will continue to decline.
The new overriding theme for the profession should be leadership. We need it at all levels and in all facets. We need it in the governance of the profession, in the courts and in the bar associations. We need to let go of the fear of change and see where the profession could go if it was allowed the freedom and creativity to grasp the new frontiers and with it, the new enabling technologies.
We need, in my personal opinion, to loosen the regulations around how lawyers can provide services, such as forming new business relationships with other professionals. Clients do not want lawyers or law firms. Clients want solutions to their problems. If we don’t allow lawyers to be creative in how they can collaborate with other professionals to form the kind of businesses that meet those needs, then clients will look elsewhere. Over-regulation chokes off creativity and growth as innovators are stopped dead in their tracks, fearing professional discipline. We are killing the future of the profession.
Take CPD credits for an example. Across North America, topics on how to market a practice or how to financially run a practice do not typically qualify for CPD credit. Yet a significant number of lawyers end up in trouble every year for not being able to profitably run a practice!
Other jurisdictions have allowed these kinds of changes to start, such as in Australia and the UK.
We need to instil entrepreneurial leadership deep within our profession to allow it to start changing to meet the new realities. We need a dialogue and a plan of how to bring about this change, starting right from law schools to law societies and bar associations all the way into the courts.
But first we must embrace a culture of leading change by embracing visionary leadership. Nothing less but the future of the profession is riding on this. Thank you to my colleagues Steve Gallagher and Shawn Holahan for seeding my thoughts on this topic.
This post originally appeared in the CBA Publication BarTalk.This entry was posted on Monday, January 13th, 2014 at 5:00 am and is filed under Business Development, Change Management, Firm Governance, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Trends. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.