Lawyers and the great innovation success story

Lawyers and the great innovation success story

You're probably wondering whether you read that right.  Or perhaps whether it's a title for a fairy tale.

We regularly hear criticism of the legal profession for being resistant to change.  I think there are two reasons for this.  First, it is.  Secondly, the resulting shortcomings are becoming more and more visible as the pace of change in the legal market increases.

When you think about it, it's actually quite hard to blame lawyers for resisting change.  It has proven to be a successful strategy for the profession for generations.  Since the practice of law began, lawyers have done business in an environment where they have benefited from the asymmetry of information between seller and buyer.  They have been in a position to dictate their own terms, with the buyer in no position to question them.

In these market conditions you'd have to be pretty foolish not to take advantage and ensure that the market you control works uncompromisingly in your favour.  And so it would make sense to devise a model which puts the lawyers in charge, maximising levels of income, normalising fee increases, shifting  risk to the buyer and ensuring high levels of sustainable profitability.

And so the hourly-billing based partnership model was born.  For generations this model thrived, revered by all those within the profession and accepted by those outside it.  Behaviours, cultures, attitudes, training and regulation all evolved around a primary purpose to serve and protect this model.  It was at the centre of the legal universe.

Like it or not, most lawyers practising today - even those recently qualified - are to some extent a product of this model and the environment that evolved around it.  But this is becoming something of a burden, as the legal universe is no longer the only universe in town and the ability to adapt is fast

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