Archive: April, 2006
The “C” word is starting to catch up with law firms, it seems. Commoditisation, I mean. The process by which nice, profitable, bill-by-the-hour work becomes not-so-nice, unprofitable, fixed-price drudgery. Legal futurologist Richard Susskind has been talking about it. Some firms have retreated from it. And after years of ambivalence, any lawyer with a career horizon longer than five years is starting to worry about it. Is someone going to commoditise me?
Commoditised lawyer… will work for food
Unfortunately, for many lawyers, the answer is yes. Sure, there will always be full-fee, high-end, high-value transactions and disputes to keep the wolves from the door (and the Dom Perignon flowing). Legal rocket science, if you like. But clients don’t just need help with their rockets. They need to keep their trucks and cars running smoothly, too.
Some people are skeptics when it comes to online delivery of legal services. They don’t think a machine can do the same job as a well-trained lawyer. But this probably has more to do with the quality of many online legal solutions, than with the concept of online legal services per se. Why is a bad machine – which asks stupid, unhelpful or confusing questions – any worse than a bad lawyer – who asks stupid, unhelpful or confusing questions?
Actually, “Best in Class” is the term they use in Aberdeen Group’s report Contract Management Benchmark: Procurement Contracts. To make the grade, you need to have clearly defined and enforced procedures and policies, using automated systems company-wide as well as standard contract language. You also need to have 90% compliance between your purchases and your contracts. Does this sound like you?