Following on our last post about Steve Harmon’s trends to watch in legal, I wanted to share some of his other key takeaways from his session at the CLOC Institute in London. Each of these takeaways, while directed at the legal operations audience, is relevant throughout the legal industry and are key driving factors for how we’ll be able to achieve change.

Collaboration Drives Success

We’ve focused on this idea previously, and it was a strong theme throughout the CLOC institute. True, smart collaboration can feel unfamiliar, and a bit uncomfortable in the legal profession, but there are strong business cases for it (we’ll get into those in a bit more detail when we discuss Heidi Gardner’s session on collaboration). Harmon said that legal operations professionals aren’t “stewards of process, but drivers of results.” Having the best process isn’t a differentiator if it’s not tied to business results (this is true within law firms as well). Because of that, it’s possible to share best practices without impacting differentiation or competition. That’s also true across the legal industry, and is a call for more, and not less, collaboration.

What’s Your WHY?

This is something else we’ve looked at in depth here at Zen, and it, too, bears repeating – this idea of “what is your WHY?” It sounds really touchy-feely, but again, it’s about identifying the business reason for why you do what you do. Harmon shared Simon Sinek’s book, “Start with Why,” and during our recent Americas Conference, Marcie Borgal Shunk, shared this short YouTube clip from Sinek on the same. Why does this matter?

  • Let’s look at the “why” for Cisco’s legal department – they say “The sole reason our department exists is to support Cisco’s efforts to design, build, and sell our products in a legally appropriate way.” It’s clear, concise, and it tells everyone who works there what their goal is. It helps to make decisions and answer tough questions – any time something is up for debate, they just have to go back to whether it fits in with their “why.”
  • “Do you sell drills?” There’s a long-running story about a drill company being asked in a meeting what they sell. And most people would answer that they sell drills. But they actually sell holes – because that’s what their customers want. The drills are just a way to get the holes. So are you a seller of drills, or a seller of outcomes? Harmon linked this to the issue of hourly-based billing, and said consumers in this case haven’t done a good job of defining the outcome that they require. They need to articulate this better, but once they do, firms should be prepared to make some changes.

Re-envision What You do

Harmon talked about the general universe of the work that lawyers do, which can be summed up as:

  • Communicate
  • Think
  • Read
  • Find Stuff
  • Create Documents

I think we can agree that a lawyer’s work falls into one of these categories. And while there has been some anxiety in the legal industry about technology taking jobs away, when you consider this list, it’s easier to accept two things – first, that there will always be work that you’ll want a human lawyer to do, and second, that you’ll get to do more of the work that you should be doing with the help of technology, if you allow it. Within your own practice, try to identify what the ratio of this work is for you. How much time do you spend doing things like finding stuff and creating documents (which could have a technological solution, and probably isn’t the work you really want to do) versus time spent communicating or thinking? Change and progress isn’t always scary – sometimes it will free you up to do the things that you love.