12/21/2012 – The End is Near
As you may have heard big things are set to happen today. Not sure when of course; after all, the “prediction” was made some time ago and concepts such as time zones, standard time and the like were not at the forefront of those who gazed upon the night sky and predicted the end would come one day. Nonetheless, the end is here and we get a ring side seat for it.
Of course, the end I am speaking of is not the same end that is driving a 2012 fueled industry of fear and junk science. Instead, I am talking about another end that is far more real: the end of the era of unchecked legal spending and inefficient models for delivering legal services. Indeed, as William Gibson once observed, the future is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed. And this as true now for law firms and legal departments across the globe as it was when he first said it years ago. Some are very much ahead of the curve and are meeting the demands of their clients. Others are lagging behind and waiting for others to blaze the path for them to follow. To the latter, you should pay attention to this period of cosmic alignment and use it as a good excuse to rethink that strategy. Although often viewed as a cliché we are truly at the end – the end of business as usual.
This is the end of wasted hours while inefficient technologies hamper your efforts to provide quality legal services. This is the end of not communicating with your clients (and prospective clients) through social media because platforms such as Twitter are just toys for younger people to share every thought that passes through their heads. This is the end of mismanagement (or worse yet, non-management) of litigation projects because the type of work you perform is just too complex to be able to plan for contingencies. This is the end of avoiding widespread adoption of predictive coding under the guise of defensibility concerns or the lack of wide scale judicial endorsements. It is the end of excuses.
Clients and their counsel need to embrace the start of this new era of collaboration and efficiency that will be mutually beneficial to the parties, and begin to ease the immense burden these inefficiencies have placed upon the legal system. Clients need to expect more from their counsel, counsel need to be prepared to deliver better services using the best technology available, and judges need to stand by the ready when to provide a prod when the machine begins to revert to its old ways. This new era will be marked by increased efficiency at lower unit costs, and a return to resolution of disputes on the merits. Those in the profession whom have sufficient business savvy will discover new ways to make work more affordable yet more profitable. I do not mean to suggest this will be a rapid change (although the change is already underway). But do not confuse the pace of change with inertia.
So as we collectively watch as one era ends and another begins, let’s look with an eye towards innovation and finding new ways to solve old problems. And if this really is the end of the world, then at least those laggards and roadblocks to innovation will avoid the indignity of the market showing them the door.