Book No. 2: Evolutionary Road

And now, presenting …. my second book! I’m the sole author of this one, but it’s not a solo effort by any means — it’s a co-production with my great friends at Attorney At Work: Merrilyn Astin Tarlton, Joan Feldman and Mark Feldman. I’m very proud to announce the publication today of Evolutionary Road: A Strategic Guide To Your Law Firm’s Future.                                                              Print

This 40-page electronic book, based on a series of posts here at Law21 last fall, lays out the future of the legal marketplace through the year 2020 and beyond, in the context of what lawyers and law firms must do today to prepare for what’s coming. Here’s how Attorney At Work describes it:

In this new ebook from Attorney at Work, Furlong envisions and details five distinct stages of development for the legal profession:

  • The Closed Market
  • The Breached Market
  • The Fully Open Market
  • The Expanded Market
  • The Multi-Dimensional Market

He teams discussion of the evolutionary timeline with essays on Regulation, Law School, Competition and Pricing to deliver the mind-bending whole in the context of an easy-to-use Strategic Discussion Guide. Smart law firms large and small will use this 40-page downloadable book to tee up effective strategic planning and market innovation. 

Evolutionary Road is an ideal blueprint for annual retreats and partnership planning meetings. The book includes specific facilitation exercises and discussion starters prepared in collaboration with Attorney at Work.

As the foregoing implies, Evolutionary Road goes beyond my original blog post series. New features exclusive to this book include:

  • Standalone analyses of changes in legal education, legal regulation, competition, pricing, and law firms themselves.
  • A Top 10 list of steps law firms can take today to begin transforming themselves for the coming legal market.
  • A blueprint for using this guide to plan a strategic retreat at which your law firm can chart its own future.
  • Brainstorming and challenge questions to galvanize your strategic retreat and produce actionable outcomes by your partners.

All this, plus handsome custom illustrations by Rob Johannsen — and the price is just $19. Visit Attorney At Work’s bookstore to learn more and to purchase your downloadable copy today (and while you’re there, check out the many other great legal publications AAW has made available).

I’m really proud of Evolutionary Road — it represents my complete vision of the evolving legal market and what I see as the imperative for lawyers to adapt their practices while retaining their professionalism and value(s). In my 5+ years at Law21, this is the first product I’ve ever developed solo for sale, and I’m hoping that it will find an audience with which it truly resonates. My sincere thanks to Merrilyn, Joan and Mark for helping make this vision a reality.

Available now! My first two published books: Content Marketing and Publishing Strategies for Law Firms (co-authored with Steve Matthews, published by The Ark Group) and Evolutionary Road (e-book published by Attorney At Work). Click the links to learn more and order your copies today.

Jordan Furlong delivers dynamic and thought-provoking presentations to law firms and legal organizations throughout North America on how to survive and profit from the extraordinary changes underway in the legal services marketplace. He is a partner with Edge International and a senior consultant with Stem Legal Web Enterprises.  

Book No. 1: Content Marketing and Publishing Strategies for Law Firms

Anyone who’s spoken with me in the last few years knows that, whenever I’m asked what my future plans include, my response invariably concludes with: “… and I really want to write a book.” So I’m really, truly happy to announce this week the publication of not one, but two books bearing my name.
BookCoveri

Book number 1 — I’ll announce Book #2 later this week — is a co-production with my friend and colleague Steve Matthews, founder and president of Stem Legal Web EnterprisesContent Marketing And Publishing Strategies For Law Firms has just been published by The Ark Group, one of the legal industry’s most respected publishers of high-quality books about the business of law. This book represents all the distilled knowledge and insights that Steve and I have gathered, over our combined three-plus decades in the legal marketplace, about publishing and content marketing for law firms.

What’s in the book? Take a look at the executive summary (PDF) for an overview; this excerpt sums up the book’s purpose nicely:

A publishing strategy is the critical link between the firm’s overall business development strategy and its content marketing efforts. It clarifies the firm’s publishing goals, its intended audience, its targeted content, its chosen methodologies, and its measures of success. It is the strategic framework within which all content marketing efforts take place.

We are now at a critical juncture in content marketing: how law firms proceed in these next several months may make or break all future efforts within the firm to conduct marketing based on published content. 

There is no shortage of material available to lawyers and law firms regarding the use of content marketing and social media. But there is a paucity of information about the strategic context within which these efforts should take place, and about the role of “publishing’”as the lens through which these efforts should be viewed. This report aims to fill that gap.

For a further preview, you can even download the first chapter of the book, “The Law Firm Publishing Strategy,” for free (PDF).

What do we talk about in Content Marketing And Publishing Strategies For Law Firms? Among many other things:

  • Designing a strategy to guide your firm’s publishing efforts and integrating it with your business development and branding strategies.
  • Choosing the best platforms for your published content, including blogs, newsletters, microsites and other vehicles.
  • Distributing your content through a growing universe of channels, from magazines and other “old” media to Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus and other “new” media.
  • Creating a “publishing culture” within your firm, motivating and enforcing participation in and contributions to the publishing strategy.
  • Measuring the effectiveness of publishing efforts, with detailed explanations of the best metrics and tools to gauge the return on your publishing investments.

I encourage you to download the sample chapter and executive summary — and, if you like what you see, to visit the Ark Group for information on how to order Content Marketing And Publishing Strategies For Law Firms today. This book collects the best advice and insights Steve and I can provide about law firm publishing, content marketing, and social media strategies: we’re confident you’d find it an indispensable addition to your strategic arsenal.

Oh, and that second book? Here’s a teaser: it’s published by my friends at Attorney At Work, and it’s a strategic guide for law firms — but I’ve already said too much….

Jordan Furlong delivers dynamic and thought-provoking presentations to law firms and legal organizations throughout North America on how to survive and profit from the extraordinary changes underway in the legal services marketplace. He is a partner with Edge International and a senior consultant with Stem Legal Web Enterprises.  

Book Review: The LegalBizDev Survey of Alternative Fees

The LegalBizDev Survey of Alternative Fees, by Jim Hassett, Ph.D. (Boston: LegalBizDev, 2009)

Okay, strictly speaking, it’s a report rather than a book. But I’m so interested in talking about this publication and its importance to the developing field of alternative fee arrangements (AFAs, a topic we’re focused on these days at Edge) that I’m willing to blur genres — and in any event, at 150 pages, it’s not like this is a pamphlet. The LegalBizDev Survey of Alternative Fees is written by consultant Jim Hassett, Ph.D., and is based on interviews with managing partners, senior lawyers and AFA managers at 37 of the largest 100 law firms in the United States. To a critic who objected that a self-selected 37% isn’t a statistically sound sample, Jim replied that while his results may not be scientifically “good,” they’re the best available resource on the subject. That is unquestionably true — but this report is also good, and is worth your time.

The Survey takes an start-to-finish look at AFAs: how they’re defined, how they developed, what drives clients to push for them, bidding strategies for lawyers who want to use them, nine common examples of AFAs, recommendations to both lawyers and clients for maximizing their effectiveness, and what the future holds. Although the author delivers content throughout, especially at the start and finish, the bulk of the Survey is drawn from the respondents themselves, in their own words. That last point is not insignificant: because Jim guaranteed anonymity to his interviewees (the 37 firms are named, but no comment is matched with a firm and all comments are anonymous), he received some wonderfully blunt opinions. Here’s one of my favourites, a quote from a law firm chairman that would never be made for attribution:

“I think it hurts lawyers’ egos to suggest that all of the work that they do is not brain surgery. And when you suggest that they might be able to get away with using people who are not junior brain surgeons, almost everyone will say, ‘Oh, no, no, no. To do my stuff, you really need to be a brain surgeon like me.’ And it’s just ridiculous. I think that there’s an odd and irrational pride in wasting money. It’s gratifying for people to brag to their friends about how much they have to pay summer associates, and how much they pay starting associates, like, ‘Isn’t this a crime? We’re paying young associates more than judges, but hey, they’re brilliant. And they work for me.’ It’s an odd situation. But I think we’ve been able to do that because the market has paid to deal with it. And that may all be over.”

This candour (which, by the way, speaks highly of the trust these lawyers place in Jim Hassett) pays great dividends in the form of unalloyed honesty from these law firm leaders, allowing us to see how they approach AFAs, what systems they set up to deal with them, and the successes (and sometimes failures) that resulted. It’s a pretty safe bet that these folks didn’t share everything they knew on the subject, and at least some of their reports and comments must have been a little self-serving or trumped up. But even if you apply that discount, the insights here are remarkable. I don’t want you to forgo the chance to read them all for yourselves, so here are two good ones:

“In the past, where we have proposed unilaterally various fixed-fee arrangements, the clients have turned them down, because they think that if we proposed them, there must be something wrong with them. We have proposed ten alternative fee arrangements for every one that is accepted. Maybe in-house counsel are afraid that outside counsel will sandbag them by building inefficiencies and excess margins into the fixed-fee quotes. … The larger problem with RFPs and alternative fees in general is really the trust issue.”

“One of our problems is that our partners seem to think they have a better product than the people we’re competing with. And so when the client compares our fixed fee with other firms’, they ask how come we can’t do the work for less. [The partners typically reply that competitors are] not offering the same product that we are, so I ask [the partners], ‘Why are we offering a product that the client won’t pay for?’ It’s a whole mindset that will require a long time to change.”

Much of the value in the Survey is derived from these first-person accounts, but Jim also does a service by rounding up, explaining and giving examples of nine common types of AFAs, along with their pros and cons, from fee caps (“the dumbest deal ever,” according to one law firm respondent) all the way up to portfolio fixed fees, limited contingencies, and holdback arrangements. And his recommendations for success in alternative fee arrangements — both to firms and to clients — are especially valuable. I won’t list them all, but it’s noteworthy that his dual sets of recommendations have two in common for lawyers and clients: improve management and focus on value.

Two things struck me when reading through this report. The first is the perhaps surprisingly high level of savvy displayed by these interviewees: contrary to the popular impression of large law firms in general when it comes to AFAs (an impression often reflected in this blog’s entries, it must be said), there are dozens of smart, informed and motivated lawyers in leadership positions within the AmLaw 100 who not only get the need for AFAs, but who are assessing the challenges, exploring options, and developing systems to implement them. If I were running a large law firm that competes with some of these firms, and I hadn’t done any serious work on AFAs within my organization, this Survey would make a chilling read. Most encouraging is the fact that these lawyers have identified the fundamental stumbling blocks to AFA implementation — cultural, financial, infrastructural — and are doing what they can to address them. That recognition doesn’t make these obstacles any less daunting, though.

The other thing that emerges from this Survey is that large corporate clients aren’t doing nearly enough to promote AFA relationships with their outside counsel. The number of times private-practice lawyers express frustration with in-house departments’ reluctance or intransigence to engage in serious AFA discussions is noteworthy: all too often, law firm AFA proposals to corporate counsel are greeted with polite statements of preference for a discount on hourly rates. Nor are corporate departments any better equipped to project-manage or otherwise administer an AFA system than their outside counterparts: more than one respondent cited the difficulty of trying to tell a general counsel that the lawyers in her department are as much the problem as the solution.

Overall, this is a powerful and important contribution to our collective understanding of alternative fee arrangements in law, a subject that Jim notes really is still in its infancy. For all that, the picture does feel incomplete: all the contributions and opinions come from law firms, and the absence of the in-house lawyer perspective leaves you wondering if general counsel might have a different view of the “reluctance and intransigence” problem about which their outside counsel complain. Perhaps a follow-up survey could speak with GCs of Fortune 500 companies, or be coordinated with the Association of Corporate Counsel as part of its Value Challenge, in order to provide another perspective, or perhaps be merged with the law firm survey to give a holistic view of this evolving area.

But on its own terms, The LegalBizDev Survey of Alternative Fees is a significant and very useful guide to understanding not just what AFAs are and how they work, but also the ongoing challenges and roadblocks to their implementation. Every law firm that seriously intends to tackle alternative fee arrangements would clearly benefit from reviewing this work.

Book Review: The End of Lawyers?

The End of Lawyers? by Richard Susskind (London: Oxford University Press, 2008)

This is an enormously important book, and if you have any interest or stake in how the legal marketplace will operate in future, you have to read it. The End of Lawyers? provides a sweeping assessment (and in places, an indictment) of today’s legal services landscape and describes the architecture of the systems that will replace it. It identifies the pressure points where the legal services marketplace is poised to fracture and describes the forces that will cause the breaks. But what really stands out about The End of Lawyers? is its comprehensive depiction of a profession undergoing massive transformation – it provides a unique panoramic view of a legal marketplace in unprecedented flux. We talk a lot about “visionaries” these days, but in the legal profession, nobody seriously competes with Richard Susskind for that title, and this book shows why.

Now, I’m a little late to this party — many other people have written excellent reviews already, most recently this incisive commentary by Mitch Kowalski at the Legal Post. Others have also covered this terrain very well, including Bruce MacEwen, Jim Hasset, Nick Holmes and Ted Tjaden, as well as numerous consumer reviews at the Amazons of the world. Accordingly, while I’ll provide an overview of the book’s contents, strengths and weaknesses, I’m going to try focusing more on what the book represents in the history of legal innovation (answer: a watershed) and its implications for the legal profession’s evolution (answer: potentially shattering).

The End of Lawyers? relates how technology (especially the Internet), collaboration, globalization, and other forces are changing the fundamental rules by which legal services are bought and sold. The book is characterized by several key observations about how the legal marketplace is being transformed, with three especially significant ones:

  • The identification of an evolving and fluid spectrum of legal services categories: bespoke (one-off, customized or tailored), standardized (drawing upon precedents, process or previous work), systematized (reduced and applied to automated systems), packaged (systematized services exported to clients) and commoditized (packaged services so commonplace as to have little or no market value). Most lawyers insist that their services cluster around the left-hand end of this spectrum; Richard convincingly argues that movement to the right is inevitable for many types of legal services, with profound implications for lawyers’ business models.
  • The decomposition of legal tasks into component parts that can be delegated to various sources, few of them actual law firm lawyers. Twelve types of destinations for this multi-sourcing (reminiscent of unbundling) are identified: in-sourcing, de-lawyering, relocating, offshoring, outsourcing, subcontracting, co-sourcing, leasing, home-sourcing, open-sourcing, computerizing and no-sourcing, each of which is explained in more illuminating detail. Despite this multiplicity of legal work performers, an overarching entity responsible for managing the work must exist, and all the systems and processes involved must work together seamlessly.
  • In the context of astonishingly deep and rapid technological advances, the emergence of no fewer than ten disruptive (in the Clayton Christensen sense) legal technologies: automated document assembly, relentless connectivity, the electronic legal marketplace, e-learning, online legal guidance, legal open-sourcing, closed legal communities, workflow and project management, embedded legal knowledge, and online dispute resolution. These developments offer tremendous opportunity for more efficient and effective legal services delivery; but they also represent major threats to various aspects of the traditional law firm business model.

And this really is just a sampling – only an actual précis of the contents could convey everything that the book suggests. The details and depth in which these and other observations are explained and illustrated, with ample use of current examples, should be enough to persuade most readers that these trends are real and they are irreversible. But over the course of the book, Richard makes other observations that can fairly be called eye-popping ­– they open the mind to possibilities that none of us have been pondering: Continue Reading

Book review: The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies

The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies, by Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell (Chicago: American Bar Association Law Practice Management Section, 2008 )

The most important and remarkable thing about The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies is that it’s not really a technology book.

This might come as a surprise, considering the book’s authors are two of the most well-known and widely published legal technology experts around. Tom Mighell chaired this year’s outstanding ABA TECHSHOW and operates the blawgosphere’s unofficial “paper of record” at Inter Alia, while Dennis Kennedy is the closest thing to a household name in legal technology worldwide. Accordingly, you might expect that the latest work from these longstanding collaborators — this time on, well, collaboration — would be a tech-heavy read. And certainly, fans of legal technology minutae won’t be disappointed with the result.

But Dennis and Tom have done more than that: they’ve created a thoughtful, comprehensive, strategic guide for 21st-century lawyers to understand and appreciate the significance of collaboration, and how it can be be integrated into real-world legal practices. In doing so, they’ve reached beyond the legal tech hardcore to the exponentially larger base of lawyers who must respond to the wave of collaboration now striking the profession, but aren’t sure how to begin. Tom and Dennis get these lawyers started and give them a map to follow and signposts to steer by. Considering how central collaboration is about to become in the law, this book really can be called indispensible. Continue Reading

Book review: Solo by Choice

This is the first in what I hope will be a more than occasional foray into book reviews at Law21. There are so many good titles out there now that deal with law practice issues in an innovative way that I’d like to bring some of them to your attention. I have a few more books lined up to review over the next several weeks, but please drop me a line if you have any other suggestions for future reviews.

Solo by Choice: How to Be the Lawyer You Always Wanted to Be, by Carolyn Elefant (Seattle, Decision Books, 2008 )

If you’re even vaguely familiar with the legal blogosphere, you’ll know about Carolyn Elefant, a sole practitioner in Washington, D.C., who authors the MyShingle blog and is widely regarded as a leading spokesperson for and authority on solos and small-firm lawyer issues. Solo by Choice is her first book, a detailed compendium of advice, instruction and encouragement for sole practitioners that’s already destined to become just as much, if not more, a touchstone for the sole practice bar as the ABA’s Flying Solo.

Carolyn is an advocate for solo life and makes no bones about it: the book opens with six reasons to start your own practice and makes clear the author’s intent to defeat negative stereotypes of sole practice. But she’s equally clear that soloing isn’t for everyone, and the opening exhilaration of the promise of sole practice is tempered with a sober assessment of the demands of this type of career, especially straight out of law school. Carolyn supports solo practice, but won’t be zealous about it to the point of underselling its challenges or misdirecting lawyers into this line of work who don’t belong there.

In 250 pages (plus 50 pages of appendices), Solo by Choice covers every aspect of sole practice, from making the gut-wrenching decision to hang your own shingle to meeting the financial and client-relations demands of a sole practice. There is not an ounce of fat in this book: it is lean, powerful, tightly written and economical. Carolyn tells you everything you need to know about life as a solo and not a word more, making it the rare text that is both comprehensive and readable: her blogging background is evident in the concise style. Continue Reading