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The Higher Use of Lawyers in a Data- and Tech-Enabled World

[As published in Corporate Counsel, on 18 September 2019; based on Susan's and Karl's presentation at Legal Geek's 2019 North American Launch (Brooklyn)]

Look to your left. Look to your right.

There’s a memorable scene in the 1973 movie, The Paper Chase … A formidable, haughty Harvard law professor, played by John Houseman, admonishes his newest class of first year students to look to their left and then look to their right: he then suggests words to the effect of “one of you won’t be here at the end of the term.”

For many lawyers of a certain age in the legal profession, this movie was an early introduction to the rigor, competitive pressures and elitism of legal education, as well as the non-collaborative nature of most forms of legal practice that would follow it. We learned at the outset that only a portion of those qualified to practice would survive the pressures that accompanied cut-throat advancement up the ranks, so we focused our attention on rival lawyers and perfecting our ability to master complex legal analysis and assignments: we thought of these as the highest professional challenges we would face.

Today’s lawyers’ – both those entering the profession and those who are experts in it – face new challenges:

“Look to your left; look to your right: two of you will find that your work can be automated in the next few years, or will be right-sourced to an experienced and successful (but much cheaper and quicker) team that is notable for its lack of legal pedigrees.”

If the higher use of lawyers in the future is not what it was in the past, what is it that will make us valued in a data- and tech-enabled world?

Legal is late to the party

Lawyers, law firms and legal departments are only beginning to confront the challenge of re-defining their relevance and reinventing their value and competencies. Since we are slow to greet the changes that already define other industries and professionals, we have to catch up quickly to stay competitive. The world in which we operate is no longer one reserved only for lawyers.

When we talk with experienced lawyers about how they are thinking about new ways to add value and compete, many mouth the mantras: improved alignment with the business, or partnering with their clients. But if pressed, most lawyers don’t actually know what that means or how it is done – they like the sound of it, but they keep on providing the same services, the same way… they seem to believe that working harder or for less, without changing their focus or figuring out how to work smarter, will get the job done. They can’t seem to define a higher value than the one they already engage in providing.

So we’re on a mission to dig deeper into a definition for “the higher use of lawyers.” We truly believe the future is very bright … for those lawyers, law firms and corporate legal departments who can recognize the direction of travel, embrace it, and tap into their higher use.

Work at Bottom of Our Licenses

We can all agree that experienced, valued, and highly compensated lawyers should spend the majority of their time on the most sophisticated and expert work that they are capable of rendering – that makes sense for both the lawyer and her client. Many would define work performed at the top of a lawyer’s license as work that is informed by the intelligence and judgment a lawyer gains from years of experience in a highly valued/expert specialization. So, it’s reasonable to posit that in a perfect world, there would be a strong and positive linear relationship between the number of years a lawyer has engaged in highly valued practice and the amount of time that lawyer spends practicing at the “top of her license.’’

It follows that highly experienced lawyers should no longer perform, and would not want to perform, work that is more appropriate for a new/learning lawyer, or anyone who is an apprentice learning a sophisticated practice. Such work could be described as work performed at the ‘bottom of our license” – that’s not a term that’s intended to be pejorative: it’s just a recognition that there’s work that lawyers do when they’re novices, and work that they do when they’re experts. Work at the bottom of the license is work to cut your teeth on; it is work that repeats; it is not strategic, but operational and routine, even if it is complex and takes training and intelligence to perfect; it is likely more fungible in terms of its value. For a client, it doesn’t really matter much who does this kind of work, so long as it gets done competently, quickly and with a minimum of expense. Work at the lower end of the legal license is thus is priced consistent with its lower value in the marketplace and to clients, even though the work still needs to get done.

In today’s marketplace, for any number of reasons (that would require another article to fully explore!), there are a lot of highly valued and experienced lawyers engaging in work that is not at the top of their license. Lawyers charge their clients higher prices or convince them to hire them as part of the client’s team once they have several years of experience, even if the value of their work – from the client’s perspective – is not commensurate with their higher cost of their service in the marketplace or their client’s investment in them. It is work that could or should be automated, outsourced or re-directed to a workflow or someone who’s more appropriately (in)experienced and compensated to do it. And some of that work should be eliminated entirely or at least re-engineered by lawyers to allow clients to serve themselves (removing the work from the legal team agenda).

For decades, lawyers and management in law firms and legal departments made higher hourly rates for work their proxy for “quality” and “excellence”; lower-priced or efficient work product were equated with lower value. Even those clients who wanted to break the cycle of paying premium prices for “bottom of the law license” work felt stymied because there weren’t realistic alternatives to get that work done. Up until lately, many of the emerging “alternatives” were still seen as just that – a risky and unproven method of working in a marketplace dominated by highly experienced and pedigreed lawyers.

Clients are now witnesses to lots of high performing alternative options for delivering better legal service and business results for less money, in less time, and with greater predictability. Clients have looked to their left and to their right, and many are deciding it’s time for them cross the road.

Change is hard

So knowing this, why do so many lawyers in firms and legal departments continue to try to hold on to lower value, bottom-end-of-the-license work or ignore the need to source it where it better belongs?

There are lots of reasons; we’re going to focus on two of the stickiest.

The first is obvious, but less than flattering: greed. A whole lot of lawyers and firms have made a ton of money doing lower license work and they are still trying to find ways to beat more returns out of it. Since they have created no other path that supplies them with similar income and activity they stick with what they know. Don’t underestimate the importance of controlling capacity in a law firm or legal department – everyone has to be busy! – and we don’t know what else to do with experienced lawyers with dwindling workloads, or their entry level lawyers who need training time, so … they stick to their knitting. And since everyone is still getting paid handsomely by so many in-house clients who drive no alternative practices beyond the 10% discount or the 10% reduction in force, they’ll continue to do just that until they can’t.

Is that smart? We’d suggest it’s the road to irrelevance or ruin – take your pick (the destination is the same). But there’s an old Warren Buffet quote at work here: “It’s hard to convince a bunch of millionaires they’re doing something wrong.” And those complicit with hanging on to the old ways to work in both law firms and legal departments still control much of both the supply and demand for corporate legal services. Until law firms see that money made elsewhere is a viable and lucrative option, and until it’s demonstrated that work done by lawyers in both law departments and law firms is more rewarding when delivered via “higher use” roles, then nothing will change. Folks smile and nod when we address them at legal conferences, but they ain’t going anywhere. And soon, that will – literally – be true.

The second reason is even more important to this conversation, and is even more difficult to address: put simply, it’s really, really, really hard for human beings to change. And that goes for everyone and how they do everything. Study after study shows that there is nothing that humans fail at more frequently than changing, even when the change they need to address is relatively simple and unimportant; and yes, even when the need to change is vital to their ability to thrive or survive. Change is hard.

So how much worse is it likely to be, when we ask highly-compensated, intelligent experts to change their longstanding professional behaviors? If we tell them to re-think both the nature and method of their practices, we’re asking them to change most of what they were so righteously trained to do, give up work that has earned them outsized compensation, status and respect, and stop doing the bulk of what they’ve done every day of their working lives. And do what? Asking professionals to give up everything they do for some undefined, un-named job-to-be-announced-later “opportunity” smells a lot like either fool’s gold or imminent unemployment to many.

Here’s the thing: those of us in the legal change community get really excited about demonstrating great new ideas or success practices; we’re adept at explaining the whiz-bang features of all the “innovative” new tech and automation out there; we can’t wait to introduce the legal team to law companies who can drive efficiency, better results, and cost-savings into the performance of “old” tasks.

But we neglect to spend any time and energy discussing what the “new” task for our audience is – what they’ll do instead. We don’t help them see (preferably before we talk about changing or re-sourcing their current practices) what their future role and their higher/better use is. In other words, we’ve got the cart before the horse as we unfold our change plans.

And then there’s that other nagging problem: most of us don’t actually know or can’t define what a lawyer’s higher use is in this brave new world.

So let’s get down to it.

The Higher Use of Lawyers – Practice at the Top of the Law License

Higher-Valued Attributes

Let’s assume that the higher use of lawyers is likely connected to that which makes lawyers valuable and unique, namely, their ability to:

• Apply experience, expert judgment and savvy (plus data) to:

o solve or advise on legal problems, especially ‘unseen-by-others’ problems,

o translate legal concerns into understandable/actionable business practices,

o prevent problems from arising with preventive and compliant strategies,

o assess, minimize or advise on the necessary re-balancing of risk,

o fill service gaps by creating or delivering solutions other workers or teams are not equipped to develop on their own,

o provide considered and trusted guidance to help clients navigate unknown or stormy, dangerous waters,

o advise on the better course (offering a perspective that protects the organization, its stakeholders, and the brand by supporting ethical, longer-term, and sustainable decisions).

• Spot trends or connect disparate dots to help clients get out in front of others, or see around the corner to anticipate what’s coming; and/or

• Identify, translate, and articulate legal concerns that can be connected to business strategy and practices, by communicating in a manner that facilitates clarity, and promotes clear, concise, and actionable directions.

(… your thoughts on what the above list should contain are most welcome – please join in since this is all of our “work in progress.”)

Higher Use Roles

With a list of attributes as a starting place, let’s move to propose “higher use” roles wherein a lawyer can deliver this kind of value in his daily work. It’s not our focus here to write job descriptions for the many different types of legal work; it’s to describe how ANY lawyer working in ANY practice might re-think how to improve the value of what he delivers to the client. In other words, this is how a lawyer assures that he is working at the top of his license in terms of how he’s challenging himself to continuously improve: how he’s applying his expertise and judgment to pivot his focus from the work he’s always done to the results his client wants delivered.

When Susan (one of your co-authors) works with legal department teams, for instance, she starts by looking for opportunities to help lawyers leading internal change projects to identify (for themselves and others) how they might see themselves in a more challenging, valued, and elevated role. Since most corporate workplaces are relatively flat (meaning, you can’t just give yourself a promotion, new work, and a raise – there’s “nowhere” to go), Susan’s not suggesting that lawyers look for a transfer, promotion or better compensation in a bigger job. Instead she’s asking them to:

  • Envision their “higher use” in their current role,

  • Perform more tasks at the higher end of their license and offload/think about how to right-source work that imprisons them at the “bottom end” of their license (put another way, she asks them to find ways to free up time by shifting work that doesn’t challenge them, in order to explore new work they’d prefer to do or work they’d like to explore/re-tool to provide),

  • Focus more attention on work that’s higher priority/most important, rather than just getting lost in responding to whatever’s urgent or dropped in their in-box, and

  • Concentrate more time on projects that allow lawyers to collaborate with each other and clients, integrate further into business functions, and better align the lawyer and the legal team with the business’ goals (AKA “partnering” with the business people to advance the company’s work, rather than waiting to respond to problems that arise).

This kind of exercise can be relevant for team members at every rung of the ladder: from junior lawyers to the executive leaders in the department (or law firm, for that matter). So think of it as an exercise in focusing on work that’s above the lawyer’s current role (forcing her to look up), not work that’s – in every sense of the world – below them.

Susan’s approach is to put all the lower-end work into a parking lot for purposes of the discussion, to be dealt with later. Often, she encourages the team or individual lawyers or groups to engage in an exercise of plotting where their work is into one of the four quadrants of a value matrix. So the “parking lot” work is placed into the lower left quadrant where work that is lower value to the lawyers and lower value to the client resides. Work parked in the low priority/lower value lot or quadrant can then be happily (later) re-assigned by the team when they’re more anxious to shed their current roles so they can move to the higher value work at the top of their license, where work is more valued by clients. By then, they’re usually not fighting to keep that work, but working diligently to explore how it could be re-assigned. That work is ripe for right-sourcing: automation, elimination, outsourcing, delegation, pushing it back to clients so they can DIY their own needs, etc.

Susan also recommends that teams don’t get trapped in discussing current or new positions, titles, or re-arranging org charts. Some of those issues will self-resolve or dissolve as the conversation moves forward; the rest are a distraction that usually frustrates any progress or consensus since it subjugates the “value” conversation, making it captive to a pedigree/titling war. So her advice is to focus first and solely on roles, reputation (in terms of “what do you want to be known for”), responsibilities, and results.

(Sidebar: this is a conversation in which many teams find themselves talking about centers of excellence – COEs – or something like them, since the point is to bring the right talent to the right work and get it done the right way at the right time; it’s not to talk about who’s the AGC and who’s the legal ops manager, who’s been here 12 years and who’s new to the team, nonetheless which one has a bigger team or more clout with the GC or management.]

So the mission for this kind of conversation is to help teams and team members envision how they can pivot from their current hamster wheel to higher use, higher performance, and higher value. Then talk about the re-assigning the stuff they used to do later, once they’re already leaning forward.

The kinds of roles that lawyers should consider if they want to achieve higher value and higher use include:

Higher Use #1: Trusted Advisor

Expert judgment may have its roots in years of legal analysis and research, disciplined work experience, and the performance of complex tasks; but it is exercised as higher value when it is offered in conversation, in real time, calmly, by a leader who can “effortlessly” connect the variables and issues with options, perspectives, recommendations, and directions. Lawyers provide valued judgment when they are able to communicate the knowledge they have earned by performance, and practically apply the experience ingrained in them by thoughtful repetition.

This is the secret sauce of advisors who are not only savvy, but trusted. They can be counted on to help, especially when the issues are murky or the path forward is unclear. Such lawyers may be thinking “it depends” when asked what to do, but they deliver advice that offers an opinion and hopefully a specific recommended course. Perhaps most importantly, they offer advice seasoned with emotional intelligence for those they serve, those they lead, and the stakeholders they impact.

The trusted advisor has to be in the room when important decisions are being discussed or early in strategy and project development conversations. So find ways to integrate yourself into business teams and be present or the moment will pass without your input.

Higher Use #2: Legal Work Done Smarter, Not Harder

A higher use lawyer – whether the lawyer is performing the work herself, or in charge of decisions about or teams who do the work under her supervision – is always thinking about how the work is performed:

is it the right work?

is it being done the right way?

with the right people and systems?

and driving toward the right result?

This requires the “Smarter, Not Harder” Lawyer-Leader to:

  • assess current and future client needs and match them to legal team workloads by prioritizing important projects and managing urgent and operational needs,

  • engage in lean process, and then project management for those workloads,

  • evaluate performance (not intelligence and hard work) and reward high performers; make decisions to properly source staffing assignments that should be otherwise sourced, and

  • do all of this under the direction of both a strategic plan and a firm grip on metrics that align with client needs and desired outcomes, not just frantic activity (otherwise known as Lawyers Playing Whack-A-Mole).

The “Smarter Not Harder” leader needs to be at the front of change initiatives in order to challenge the team to be more introspective and to buy into the kind of radical transparency and reliance on data and results that any good engineer would apply to a process of inventing something new. This isn’t a cheerleader role as much as it is a “volunteer-to-roll-your-sleeves-up-and-be-willing-to-fail-and-try-again” role.

If the department or firm is large, this lawyer will wither on the vine if not 100% supported and rewarded for their efforts by the GC or management. If the department is smaller, there is nowhere to hide from either the leadership and buy-in required, or the common failure of the entire team to deliver on what’s been promised. Change practices are not for sissies; they are for resilient leaders and committed teams.

Higher Use #3: Working Collaboratively and Leading Teams

Most legal services and solutions to client problems are not delivered at a conference table or in a chair in the CEO’s office – most are delivered over time, and often through the collaborative work of a team. Sometimes, the team includes just a few lawyers and supporting staff or para-professionals, maybe even both inside and outside counsel, all of whom know their stuff, have worked together for years, and are each best suited to contribute what’s needed to get the job done. If they are also “Smarter, Not Harder” Lawyers, they go into supervised auto-pilot to get the work done – quickly, competently, and without fuss – as a high performing, collaborative unit. For this team, working as a team doesn’t require a lot of sweat because of their well-understood roles and coordination from years of experience.

But just as often, the needed team is larger, often composed of a passing parade of new and exiting entrants or folks from different perspectives and workplaces/locations. The team may be made up of lawyers, legal operations and support staff, and other professional-level experts from within the company or from external partners, who may be included on this or that matter to contribute their broader experience and expertise from other disciplines: tech/IT, financial, HR, compliance, systems, forensic, experts in the matter’s underlying subject (real estate, banking, manufacturing, etc.).

Both of these types of working groups require skill, preparation and leadership. But the supervisory and leadership skills required for the latter – the larger teams that are composed and re-composed with each new matter – require higher-value lawyer-supervisors who know which workers and team leaders are needed to best perform which tasks (even if they don’t themselves have expertise in the performance of that task). They lead by assigning those team members to contribute at their highest level of performance. They listen to others’ opinions and respect others’ expertise. And they hold themselves accountable for assuring that the work gets done the right way with the right result. This requires the Team-Leading Lawyer to listen, to objectively assess and decide between conflicting opinions and paths, to set clear goals with actionable directions, to articulate what is expected of everyone and how their success will be judged, and to motivate and reward higher performance.

Higher Use #4: Keeping the Ship On Course

It’s worth noting that most workload management platforms that allow clients to use trained workers and technology to perform repetitive or routinized tasks (think contract management systems) will by design kick out cases/matters that don’t fit the mold, that require specialized input, or that are too sensitive, expensive, or strategic to leave to a managed process outsourcer or technology.

For these non-conforming cases/matters or high-end business priorities, high value lawyers will still be needed to do that 5% or 10% of work that the system or the trained pool of internal or external staff isn’t designed to perform or capable of delivering. Many of these system and cost-center experts will also help to create and administer the systems and people that do handle that 90-95% of the repetitive work. For someone with the eye for technical detail, terrific management skills, as well as creative ideas for getting work done better, this is an outstanding role. And it offers the opportunity to not only interact at high levels with clients, but provide the bespoke services that lawyers love to offer since all of the substantive work in their inbox, by definition, requires a bespoke response.

Higher Use #5: Harnessing Data and Technology

Who hasn’t seen footage of Watson answering Jeopardy questions in nanoseconds? While many lawyers don’t understand how machine learning and AI help technologies deliver relevant data, we all know they do. And it’s okay if you don’t know all the details of how it’s done since ninja tech expertise is not needed for higher use lawyers to embrace and competently harness the resulting process improvements and data. We don’t need to know how to assemble an engine to successfully drive a car. When it comes to leveraging the technology, we may need some training, but after that, setting a destination and getting to it only requires us to have set a good course, properly engage the accelerator and the brakes when appropriate, turn around and re-position when the project or team takes a wrong turn, avoid accidents, and move in the direction of traffic.

Technology generates data for lawyers to harness, as well as helping them to automate tasks that can be done more efficiently with a system than a room full of lawyers each working on a task in their own way. So higher value lawyers focus first on figuring out what team and client priorities and strategies are, and then the means to mine, analyze, and act on the data that helps deliver them. Karl (your co-author) likes to say: listen carefully to what story the data is telling and what you should do in response. Data that is simply “admired” is worthless – its value is determined by whether and how you make it actionable.

For example, Karl often sees in-house and law firm teams using tech to mine data from their previous practice histories, allowing them to better price their work (law firms), or to budget and track matters more accurately (legal departments), or staff work with the right teams doing the right work in the right way (both!). These are simple examples of how data can improve practice management, client service, and legal operations. There are countless additional applications, too.

But Karl’s work gets a lot more interesting when he’s working with the growing number of legal teams which are taking the next step beyond use of data for operational or practice management purposes. These teams are also mining data within their own firm/company, their client’s industry, and other law departments and firms in order to predict the best path forward for a matter, or the likeliest outcome of a conflict, or how the other side is likely to respond to a negotiation strategy. This use of predictive data analytics in legal advisory functions or litigation is still relatively rare but growing (and getting better with iteration). Lawyers who can harness such data and who use it to improve client results, are offering higher value services that will be highly sought.

(Susan adds: Related to this is the better use of data in corporate compliance and in assessing risks. It’s been an in-house focus for years to spend more effort preventing or eliminating problems, rather than simply remedying them once reported. But previous methods focused solely on options such as better in-person training for line employees. While that is still critical, data is a new ally that promises to revolutionize preventive practice, by sorting commonalities in previous fails that render information on what to correct or when problems are most likely to arise, or by assessing matters across industries to cross-reference certain behaviors or indicators that can be corrected or addressed before they lead to a fail.)

It is the advent of easily configured platforms that has transformed much of what Karl’s industry does for legal clients and impacted specifically what Kim Technologies and EY Riverview Law do – especially with the promise of AI waiting to further enhance and correlate data on platform solutions once they’re in place. Platform solutions (broadly defined for this writing) are already commonplace in corporate finance, tax, HR and sales functions, and typically operate and deliver their services using dedicated platforms, whether based on SAP, Oracle, Sage, Workday, Salesforce or other systems. And they’re now trending in legal since they can provide for transparency and collaboration around workflows, processes, teams, tasks, templates and essential operational data.

Everyone who’s invited to participate on a platform or some portion of it knows what’s current, pending and completed on the team’s agenda, where/whom it came from, what its value/risk is, who is handling it, how long it takes, what’s next in the process, what resources are at play, and why and when it closed. Myriad other captures of data can be included, as desired. Further, platforms can “house” resources, expertise/knowledge practices, team collaboration and communication, as well as project management. As such, platforms are tools that supply higher value lawyers with data that offers insight, real-time and trending dashboards, and the ability to demonstrate, quantify and report lawyer value to clients. Platforms also create common areas for lawyers, operations staff, para-professionals, clients, and external participants to collaborate on a matter by invitation: just in time, from wherever they reside, just as needed, matter by matter.

Until recently, many professional services firms, and particularly law firms and corporate legal departments, had little practical access to platforms that were designed and could be maintained by them and for their unique purposes. Their technology choices were largely point solutions, such as case/matter management, e-billing, and document review. These point solutions offered neither comprehensive operational data nor structured work collaboration for the majority of the legal team. Platforms offer both alternatives to point solutions, as well as the means to integrate legal point solutions and their existing data via an easily configurable, comprehensive, correlated, common system.

In a business world where where data is the new oil and digitization is a driving strategy, lawyers who lead by driving workflow over technology platforms that drive relevant data are enabled to perform at their highest value / higher use, and can share that value with other team members and demonstrate it to clients, as well.

Higher Use #6: Anticipating What’s Next

Higher use lawyers include those who are expert in pioneering the handling of matters which are emerging or novel. Law is an ever-expanding practice – the more complex and inter-related business matters are, the greater the likelihood that clients will turn to experts who are both trusted and “inter-disciplinary” thinkers for help. Combining their legal experience, institutional knowledge of the business and its stakeholders, and conceptual/contextual thinking, higher value lawyers can help clients navigate the ins and outs, as well as the risks and wrongs, of emerging challenges. In today’s marketplace, such challenges might include the adoption of facial recognition technologies on corporate premises, or the navigation of rising privacy requirements in cross-border businesses, or the installation (or avoidance) of new forms of blockchain payment systems, as well as whatever is next.

For those who are interested in constantly re-inventing or expanding their practices to take on new challenges, there will always be higher value opportunities to serve clients, but only if lawyers are looking for ways to plot new paths forward in their practices. In order to not only anticipate, but help clients lead on what is trending in an industry or in regulatory communities, lawyers have to let go of work that would otherwise occupy their every moment, and spend time anticipating and studying that which may – for everyone else – reside just around the corner.

Higher Use #7: Do Less Law; Do More …?

Hat tip to those smart folks out there in practice who’ve started to focus us all on the concept of #DoLessLaw. But stop for a moment and think about what #DoLessLaw really means. It doesn’t mean that your job gets smaller or less important; it doesn’t mean that legal matters suddenly disappear and aren’t necessary for clients to address. It also doesn’t mean that lawyers aren’t valued or critical leaders who help advance clients’ objectives. They are.

Rather, #DoLessLaw is a philosophy that encourages lawyers to spend more time and attention performing higher use roles, such as those outlined above, and less time performing work at the bottom of their license. It also requires lawyers to look far beyond the law, to think about the interconnected issues and other perspectives. In short, it helps lawyers live up to the adage that both Karl and Susan love to repeat: your higher use requires you to target solutions for clients who have business problems (not just “legal” problems). Higher use lawyers #DoLessLaw when they look for ways to contribute to the business by aligning their priorities with client goals and partnering with clients to advance the business. Distinguishing value is defined by a legal team that does less law, and does more leading.

There are many executive, and management skills or competencies that legal business models would be well served to incorporate, and that lawyers can learn from as they look for new ways to lead in law departments, law firms and other legal practices. Learning to upskill (which is often associated with the digitization of businesses) or to add new skills is a top priority for many firm and department leaders; read Mark Cohen's Forbes article on upskilling, or read more about Susan's take on the skills beyond legal that will help you lead and improve your service delivery, if you're interested. It's worth noting that there's growing evidence that investment in training (on skills beyond the substantive CLE/legal updates) enjoys a high correlation to greater efficiency and lower cost in legal service delivery. Win win! See? Less is More.

Look to Your Left: Look to Your Right; Now look all around you … especially up!

For the next generation of lawyers, and the current generation of mature practitioners, there’s a better way to assure your value and relevance to clients. It’s not by looking to your left, or right, or behind you, and then competing with the other lawyers you see. Today’s legal marketplace requires those who want to provide distinguishing value to compete with themselves - not others - to up their game and improve. We need to think beyond what it is that we, as lawyers, were first trained to think about so that we can deliver more than the repetition of lower-license tasks. And in doing so, lawyers will find better ways to collaborate with other professionals and their expertise – internal team members, clients, external providers – to assure not only the highest use of lawyers, but higher value for our clients.

Our recommendation is to look deep within and then to look up: to rise to the challenge of finding your higher value and highest use.


Susan Hackett is the CEO of Legal Executive Leadership, LLC. She’s an expert in law department strategy, operations and value practices; in her role at LEL, she consults with legal executive leaders and their teams as they work to define and implement their transition from the way they used to work, to lead the way they’ll work in the future.

Karl Chapman is a Director at Kim Technologies and Strategic Adviser at EY Riverview Law. He has a distinguished history in starting, growing and managing successful companies. These include CRT Group plc, which grew to a market capitalization of over £600 million and was sold in 1996, AdviserPlus Business Solutions which he remained owner and non-executive until its sale in 2016, and Riverview Law which was acquired by EY in August 2018.

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