So I finally mustered up the courage to put keystroke to blog and start an ongoing talk-blog on our site to speak about the things that orbit my particular portion of the legal galaxy. As a notice to readers, its more of an exercise in breaking the fourth wall of the dialogue inside my head than in any formal dissertation.
By way of background I am a computer scientist and change addict. I seek out big bang moments in industry both at home and around the globe, and at no time have I ever been as excited as I am now in the Canadian Legal space; Between the consumerization of law, the unstoppable weight of technology, and inverse pangea that is the new global economy we (those of us in and around the law) are in for a breathtaking moment in history. I happen to have front row seats as the Executive Director of this fine law firm, Hummingbird Lawyers, and could not be happier about it.
Nov. 23, 2016 – Yesterday afternoon I attended a TLA luncheon on the future of law and changes in the legal industry. Very interesting and inspiring, although to be honest it was a bit of an out of place topic for a room full of marketers. For the most part, I felt that what a lot of people are calling innovation is really just shuffling around the desks that the service providers are sitting in. From big law to in house law, to a mix of the two, and back again sprinkled with a little bit of technology as a productivity booster (electronic contract review, etc). Its sort of like a game of musical chairs, and we all know how that game ends.
There were some interesting points about big opportunities in B2C legal services, marketing messages (lawyers are problem solvers and not just technicians), and that in general firms of the future will need to move at the speed of consumer expectations (as opposed to their own).
December 16th, 2016 – Last night we had our annual Holiday Party, it was touch and go for a while with the weather, but even in the face of the Environment Canada warning, we forged ahead with it. What normally would be an average 20-30 minute drive for most in the office took between one and four hours! The sheer indefatigability of the people in this firm was nothing short of amazing, and for that I am blessed to be a part of this wonderful firm. The night felt like a dinner with the family, laughing, socializing, and lots of hugs. It is fantastic to see that even with the blazing pace of growth we are seeing at the firm, we see our culture and values stand strong and endure. Cannot thank you all enough. Happy Holidays and a Healthy and Happy New Year to all.
January 17th, 2017 – As we grow and continue to work hard at maintaining our culture, nomenclature is something that keeps forcing its way into my head. Specifically the term timekeeper. I cannot stand the word timekeeper. For those of you who do not know, for almost all law firms, the term timekeeper is used for anyone who is billing at the firm, this includes lawyers, clerks, students, etc. The problem is that it reinforces the incorrect mentality of time as a core measure of productivity, and for most that measure extends deep into the client relationship.
Sure, time is very important, there are only so many hours in a day to do things, as the unionists say ~ 8 hours for work, 8 hours for play, 8 hours for sleep, but the model that many traditional firms operate on perverts this and even rewards their time keepers for maximizing the billable hour.
The fundamental problem here is that outside of a select few professions, it is value and not time that is the true measure of a successful relationship, both between the client and the people at a law firm, as well as between the law firm and its people. When a client comes to a law firm with their needs and the expectation of an outcome, the value proposition is the firm’s ability to deliver the desired outcome (or at least the most beneficial possible outcome). Time can certainly factor into the value, but only as a measure of service in the same fashion that bedside manner or communication would.
Many timekeepers would tell you that it is impossible to know how much time might factor into any specific client matter, and thusly no way of correlating value with effort, and while it is true that many matters have a multitude of divergent possibilities, it is never an all or nothing proposition. If that timekeeper is experienced enough, they will know the process well enough to create milestones. With those milestones they can then easily correlate value and cost to the most immediate milestone (and to future milestones, but with a lesser degree of certainty). This process, repeated, brings considerable clarity, predictability, and (cost) control to clients, while allowing timekeepers to operate efficiently and more importantly decouple time from delivered value. It is this decoupling that ultimately turns a timekeeper into a CONTRIBUTOR… which is the correct title for any value focused service professional.
January 24th, 2017 – The squeaky wheel gets greased.. but if it is too squeaky it gets replaced.
February 8th, 2017 – Give me your API’s, ditch your interfaces please! As we allocate more resources to in-house development projects, we are finding that there are lots of good services out there, the only problem is that they all focus on creating beautiful interfaces that are singularly focused, and ultimately create so much duplication in any one real-world process, it loses almost any practical productivity gain. If Quick Books or XERO were simply a collection of micro-services on top of a fully optional interface, it would be magical. Companies develop interfaces first, then after a period of time may consider developing API’s. And even then, they create their API’s primarily as a means to shuttle information between two systems, so that peoples data can appear on both applications interfaces – how does that make any sense!? News flash, its not magical to have my client’s contact info (even if seamlessly synchronized – which never, ever happens properly) in gmail, google contacts, address book, trello, quickbooks, pclaw, my phone, and the kid down the block who hacked me last nights’ computer – it’s just plain ridiculous. Stop creating MacGyver solutions and start taking a step back – back behind the curtain – be a service, do the right thing.
Develop one agnostic user interface, make it operate with simple human to machine connections, make it beautiful, and make it consume and interact with services seamlessly. One interface that gets me, millions of services that subserviently link together to form an endless configuration of process flows. Actually, sounds like a plan. I’m gonna go now and start coding it. Ciao.