Do Less Law – Redefining Value in the Delivery of Legal Services

by Timothy B. Corcoran on June 2, 2015

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I have the good fortune to be invited to attend the upcoming ILTA annual conference to join my friend Ron Friedmann in conducting an interactive workshop entitled “Do Less Law.” This session builds on a growing concept that the maturation of law practice is as much about doing less as it is about doing more with less, a concept that Ron coined in a November 2011 article “To Reduce Legal Spend, Do Less Law” and that he has since expanded on his blog and #DoLessLaw tweets. As regular readers know, I have also addressed this concept regularly here and in my other speeches and articles.

Corporate law departments face budget pressure and demand more value from their law firms. Yet many cannot clearly define value. Some in the market equate value with efficiency.  A focus only on efficiency, however, misses many other opportunities to control cost and create value. Doing something efficiently that does not need doing at all still wastes money. What exactly does it mean, however, to do less law? And how big an opportunity is it?

At ILTA 2015, we will have an opportunity to crowdsource the answers. In preparation for the interactive session at ILTA, this post introduces the idea in more detail and seeks feedback.  Below is the taxonomy of Do Less Law options. Whether you think the ideas are terrible or great, we welcome comments or email to help refine it. And, we hope to see many of you at our session on Wednesday, September 2, 2015, at 3:30pm PDT in Las Vegas.  Our goal at the session is to get you and your colleagues discussing these ideas and deciding which are worth pursuing – and how to pursue them.

Do Less Law Taxonomy

1. Do what we now do but better
1.1 Improve Efficiency
1.1.1 Automate
1.1.1.1 Lawyers learn tech to their work faster and more consistently
1.1.1. 2. Market adopts interactive advisory systems (e.g., Neota Logic) or cognitive computing (e.g, IBM Watson) to supplement or replace lawyer work
1. 1. 2. Improve process to eliminate waste
1. 1. 3. Manage work to control effort (legal project management)
1. 2. Reduce Cost
1.2.1. Staff matters with lower cost resources (“alternative staffing”)
1.2. 2. Partner with or use alternative providers (LPO, New Law, doc review companies, or .lower cost firms
1.2.3. Reduce overhead with smaller offices, moving work to low cost centers, and working virtually)

2. Do what we now do but less intensively
2. 1. Scope matters systematically, more specifically, decide explicitly the level of effort warranted
2.1.1. In transactions, decide what risks need papering
2.1. 2. In litigation, use risk analysis (decision trees) to value matters
2. 2. Stick to scope with legal project management (LPM)

3. Do less than we do now by practicing preventive law
3. 1. Improve compliance (or decide consciously the appropriate level of compliance)
3. 2. Identify legal risks in advance and then act to avoid them
3.2.1. Conduct legal health audit and act on findings
3.2.2. Use big data and analytics to find problem
3.2.2.1. Detect prior “bad patterns” to prevent future recurrence
3.2.2. 2. Identify risky behaviors via analyzing email traffic (“big brother”)
3.3. Train corporate employees to comply where cost of non-compliance is too high

4. Re-think how we do what we do now
4. 1. “Settle” sooner
4.1.1. Decide litigation settlement value earlier and stick to it
4.1.2. Decide transaction key terms and stop negotiating when you get them
4.1.3. Decide how thorough a counseling answer is enough – what risks are you willing to live with – boulders or motes of dust?
4.2. Create open source law (this is not the law of open source code)
4.2.1. Pool know-how and re-usable documents across clients (privately or publicly, e.g., Docracy)
4.2.2. Think of this as collective knowledge management (KM)
4. 3. Automate contracts
4.3.1. Use existing technology more and more effectively
4.3.1.1. Analyze and systematize contracts (with, e.g., KM Standards)
4.3.1.2. Build document assembly systems
4.3.1.3. Deploy contract lifecycle management software (e.g., Apttus or Selectica)
4.3.1.4. Use eSigning software
4.3.2. Re-invent contracts
4.3.2.1. Write contracts as software code
4.3.2.2. Write contracts as database records (XML, JSON, or similar)
4.3.2.3. Design and deploy a Blockchain approach
4.4. Re-think litigation
4.4.1. Substitute information governance for eDiscovery
4.4.2. Do risk analysis (e.g., decision trees) to assess individual matters and portfolios
4.4.3. Assess cases early and decide consciously whether to look for boulders, rocks, stones, pebbles, or motes of dust.
4.4.4. Online dispute resolution
4.5. Automate counseling
4.5.1. Collect inquiries systematically (KM)
4.5.2. Develop interactive advisory systems to handle high volume problems
4.5.3. Convert regulations into code

 

Timothy B. Corcoran is the immediate past President of the Legal Marketing Association and an elected Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management. He delivers keynote presentations, conducts workshops, and advises leaders of law firms, in-house legal departments, and legal service providers on how to profit in a time of great change.  To inquire about his services, contact him at +1.609.557.7311 or at tim@corcoranconsultinggroup.com.

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