One of the many cool things about working in our space is that I get the opportunity to regularly read opinions on the legal profession written by the innovators who are actively involved, on a day-to-day basis, in trying to improve it.
Frequently these folks offer spot-on practical advice. Simple, understandable, incredibly valuable and yet – somewhat paradoxically – free.
(As an aside, I believe that when we spot lawyers offering up great, useful content for free – a la Carolyn Elefant at MyShingle, Richard Granat at eLawyeringredux, Nikki Black at Sui Generis, Aaron Street and Sam Glover at Lawyerist, Venkat Balasubramani at Spam Notes, Bob Ambrogi at LawSites, Susan Carter Liebel at Solo Practice University, and Kevin O’Keefe at Real Lawyers Have Blogs (and many others) – it’s the first indication that you’ve found a professional who is not just writing about the future of the profession, but also shaping it.)
Lawyers who are making a conscious effort to capture interest, engage communities, and deliver real value – prioritizing these things over concerns of “giving too much away for free” – are showing us the future. Moreover, I believe that these are the kind of lawyers who will rarely, if ever, feel threatened by the advancement of technology.
Instead, these lawyers use technology as a tool to improve their true core offering which, in most cases, is ultimately some combination of reasoned judgment, specific experience, and persuasive advocacy. These are unique abilities that great lawyers provide, and the best ones will use technology to support these core skills. Document assembly, document review, “open source” agreements – all these things can be threats to lawyers averse to adapting, grasping on to old practices and methods that inadvertently accept and sometimes even reward for inefficiency (the billable hour being a prime example), but they’re not going away.
As an example of the kind of quality advice that’s being offered up today, Jay Shepherd from Prefix, LLC, recently posted several gems in a piece entitled “Small Firms, Big Lawyers: Reflections on Thirteen Years” first published by our friends at Above The Law. It’s the kind of stuff that one usually only learns by mistake – by screwing it up yourself.
(Disclaimer: I’ve never personally worked at a boutique law firm, so I can’t attest to the effectiveness of Jay’s advice in that precise context; however, I’ve worked for many years in several similarly “boutique” sized, service-oriented entrepreneurial environments and can absolutely say that his tips are entirely applicable to that setting.)
Some of the simple, yet fundamental, truths in the piece: “Hire Slowly And Fire Fast”, “Only Take A and B clients, not C and D clients”, and “Get A Top Assistant” are all gold.
The article is great practical advice, and definitely worth reading and passing along.
If you have time, I strongly suggest adding Jay and the other folks mentioned above to your “favorites” list. Periodically reading what these thinkers have to say will give you some valuable insight on what’s happening in their respective focus areas. Many also encourage comment and interaction, which is a useful way to insert yourself into the conversation, which in turn helps develop a habit of regularly engaging the community.
Just like the pros who “get it.”