You’re not selling what we’re buying

Demand is flat or falling at large law firms, says the newest Wells Fargo survey released yesterday. Revenue is now being driven solely by hourly rate increases, the last remaining income enhancement button that law firms can press and one they will presumably continue to press until it no longer responds. This is not an especially new development: as has been the case every year since 2011, the 2015 Altman Weil survey of Chief Legal Officers found that more law departments decreased their spend on outside law firms than increased it.

But shrinking demand at law firms is not the same thing as shrinking demand among clients. The need for legal services — in the absence of war, famine, or some other Horseman of the Apocalypse — has never decreased year-over-year at any time, anywhere in the world. Populations increase, businesses expand, regulations multiply, opportunities arise, crises metastasize — life continuously grows more complex, and legal needs grow along with that complexity.

Just because law firms aren’t getting as much work as they used to, that doesn’t mean there’s less work to be gotten. Corporate clients are actually spending more money; they’re just not spending it on law firms.

The firm’s new business development campaign needed a little work.

Consider that HBR Consulting reported a 1% rise in legal spend among 275 surveyed law departments earlier this month. But the same survey showed that corporate spending on outside counsel actually decreased by 2% in the same period. Litigation work at 151 large law firms firms dropped 1.1% in the first half of 2016, according to the latest Thomson Reuters’ Peer Monitor survey, and has now fallen for 15 consecutive quarters. But this is not because corporate clients have fewer lawsuits: according to the most recent Norton Rose Fulbright survey of more than 600 companies, lawsuits and proceedings commenced against these companies rose in the last year.

Add to that a study by Huron Consulting published in February that surveyed 700 general and senior in-house counsel: it found that while overall legal spending rose 2.2% in the 2013-14 period, that slowed to 1.7% in 2014-15. “Whether that goes down to a zero percent or it goes down to a decreasing percent, the trend is to go down,” said Bret Baccus, managing director of Consilio, which conducted the survey. But here again, the cause is not a reduction in clients’ legal needs, but that “there are now more programs in place within corporate law departments to help manage budgets and reduce legal spend.”

So if law departments do have money and they’re not giving it to law firms, where is it going? What has become increasingly clear throughout 2016 is that corporate clients are chanelling their legal spend in multiple non-firm directions.

  • Insourcing continues to be the most common alternative destination for law department spending. Fully 68 percent of managing partners and chairs told the 2015 Altman Weil survey that they’ve already lost business to corporate law departments insourcing legal work. Confirmation comes from the 76% of law departments reporting reductions in outside law firm spend that said they’ll re-allocate this work to their own in-house legal staff.
  • Mitratech reports that corporate law departments now spend about $1.5 billion annually in legal software, a figure it expects to swell as high as $6 billion. The fastest-growing corporate legal technology areas, according to the survey, are “knowledge management, legal analytics, legal project management, contracts management, and governance and compliance software.” (And note that many law departments have yet to board the technology train.)
  • The power of procurement professionals within corporate legal departments continues to grow. Eighty-six percent of procurement personnel reported in a Buying Legal Council survey in March that they exercise influence on spending decisions for commodity-type legal work — and incredibly, 45% also influence premium work such as high-stakes litigation and complex/high-level matters.
  • Royal Dutch Shell might be forging an entirely new path for non-traditional corporate legal spend, judging from a May report in Legal Business that the company was preparing to open its own offshore legal centre to service its global operations: “A mixture of non-qualified and qualified lawyers will be doing more high-end work as well as the traditional back office work which is more typically suited to offshore centres.”
  • And the money that corporate clients do spend on law firms now comes with conditions. The HBR survey also found that 85% of law departments now use alternative fee arrangements, and 80% plan to increase their use of AFAs next year. This isn’t the old “discounted hourly rate” dodge, either: fixed fees per matter and flat fees for all matters in a field of work were the two most commonly cited AFAs. BASF’s legal department even requires firms to present AFA options for every engagement.

The buying patterns of corporate legal clients have changed. Clients are buying less of some things (the efforts of lawyers billed hourly) and more of other things (the efforts of lawyers priced flat, software and AI, process improvements, legal analytics, offshore talent, and more). This isn’t a future trend: it’s an entrenched reality, right now and for the next few years at least.

So how should law firms respond? The Wells Fargo report recommends, as does virtually every other consulting report issued in the past two years, that law firms better align their workforce with their workload — that is to say, reduce their headcount by de-equitizing “under-performing” partners. No doubt, there are more than a few firms whose equity partner ranks could use some culling, but I really don’t think that’s the problem (and I don’t think that cutting loose every partner who falls below this year’s arbitrarily drawn “under-performance” line is the solution).

The problem is much simpler than that, and it looks like this: Clients are buying things that law firms don’t sell.

The great majority of law firms sell exactly one thing: the hourly billed efforts of their lawyers. It’s not that clients aren’t interested in buying that commodity — they are, and will continue to be, for a range of matters. But they’re just as interested, maybe more so, in buying other things, such as technology, analytics, and lawyers on a fixed-fee basis. But most law firms aren’t selling any of those things. So clients buy these things from legal tech startups and legal outsourcing providers, or they create these things by hiring in-house lawyers and legal operations experts. That’s where their money is going.

And spam's off.

The traditional law firm menu.

The real reason why demand is falling at law firms is that clients have diversified their purchases, but law firms haven’t diversified their offerings. Law firms are steakhouses. Clients are looking for restaurants.

If law firms want their clients to spend more money with them, they need to start stocking their shelves with all the other things clients now want to buy. They need to purchase legal technology startups and sell their products or services under the firm’s name. They need to acquire or rapidly build an analytics functionality and provide clients with its insights. They need to radically rethink the purpose and nature of lawyer secondments, maybe creating a “permanently seconded” lawyer trained and paid by the firm but embedded in the law department. They need to start offering fixed-fee “packages” of legal services in every industry group.

This time last year, LexisNexis bought litigation analytics pioneer Lex Machina. The purchase price was not disclosed, but the company was reportedly seeking a buyout in the $30-$35 million range. An AmLaw firm with an average PPP of $1 million and, say, 600 partners could have made a 5% one-time reduction of each partner’s annual draw and bought Lex Machina outright. Think of the massive volume of competitive market intelligence that firm would have acquired. Think of all the analytics services it could have sold to every corporate law department every year thereafter, paying back the partners’ investment many times over. What a missed opportunity.

Law firms can’t afford to miss any more of those opportunities. They need to recognize that an enterprise that sells only one commodity, no matter how excellent its quality, is deeply vulnerable to any reduction in market demand for that commodity. Diversify your firm’s offerings. Find out where your clients are spending money other than traditional law firms and what they’re buying there, and figure out whether and how you might offer that as well.

You might not think of analytics providers and outsourcing platforms and IT solutions and all these other new service providers as competition, because they don’t sell the same kinds of legal services that you do. But that’s not the point. They’re not competing against your services. They’re competing for your clients’ legal spend. And so long as law firms continue to offer one and only one thing for clients to buy, it will be literally no competition at all.

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blawg_100_2016I was surprised and honoured to find that Law21 was included in the ABA Journal‘s 2016 Blawg 100 list, my first appearance on the list in two years and my seventh overall. My sincere gratitude to the editors and the selection committee.

Some light summertime reading for you

Even though Law21 was offline for the first half of 2016, I was still busy writing a number of articles and contributing columns to several publications worldwide. Now that they’ve all been published, and since, let’s face it, August is not a month generally conducive to either producing or consuming huge tracts of original content, I thought I’d share the links with you today.

It's a little early for a clip show, don't you think?

It’s a little early for a clip show, don’t you think?

Back in January, I wrote a column for Bloomberg Business Of Law about the fact that “Consolidation is Hitting the Canadian Legal Market.” Among my observations:

I’ve been saying for awhile that although Canada is not over-lawyered, it is “over-firmed.” There are too many large firms for such a modest population and capital base. Combine all that with the development of truly sharp and businesslike management in a small but growing number of aggressive law firms worldwide, constantly on the lookout for expansion opportunities. The end result is a situation where, regardless of the local fiscal weather, the underlying economics and demographics of Canada’s legal sector suggest that consolidation and reorganization are right on time.

Then in March, I contributed an item to the Spring 2016 edition of Law Matters, the newsletter of the Canadian Bar Association-Alberta, titled “9 Emerging Truths About Legal Service Delivery.” Here’s #2:

Lawyers will ultimately benefit from a multi-provider market. In truth, we’ve been punching below our weight for some time now, devoting our immense talents to tasks that are essentially clerical, transactional or procedural in nature. Others will take that work from us — and in the long run, we’ll thank them, because we will be freed to apply our highest and deepest skills to more important and valuable needs and opportunities.

Shortly afterwards, Lexpert magazine published a column in its April 2016 issue with the slightly aggressive title “Lawyers: Accountants are eating your lunch.” Here’s one of the reasons why:

The Big Four prioritize the client relationship: they learn everything they can about the challenges, risks and opportunities facing the companies they serve, and they constantly look for ways to help their clients achieve their goals. They streamline their processes and systematize their operations with technology, in order to make their costs of production lower and more predictable. They promote their brand above their individual professionals, not the other way around.

In June, after already having recorded a podcast with Sam Glover, I wrote a column for Lawyerist called “What Makes Uber Tick, and What Lawyers Can Learn from It,” in which I said, inter alia,

The lesson for lawyers, especially those in sole practice and small firms, is this: the many new competitors in our market are not beating us on quality. They’re beating us first on service and convenience, and then on price. We’re not being out-lawyered in this market. We’re being out-customered.

And finally, just this week, I contributed one of several entries in SmartLaw: Expert insights for the future of law, a free downloadable e-book published by HighQ. My entry was titled, “Move your feet,” about mobilizing your law firm:

Instil not just a sense of urgency among your equity owners and employees, but also an ethic of continuous responsiveness. Help your people understand that this isn’t a one-time crisis, but an ongoing process of market adjustment that requires fluid, real-time reaction. Don’t just wait to see what other firms are doing so you can copy them. Be the firm others try to copy — and do it so well that they don’t stand a chance.

I hope the foregoing constitutes some light summer reading for you (in reality, I hope you have access to much lighter summer reading than that), and I’ll be back with a new post later this month.

Well, I’m back

Since I took the title of my sign-off post 18 months ago from the last album by my favourite band, I figured I’d take the title of this return post from the last line of my favourite book. Because in times of great change and upheaval, it’s dated pop-culture references that will hold us all together.

Take the "Baggins" off the nameplate, Rosie. From now on, it's Gamgee LLP.

Take the “Baggins” off the nameplate, Rosie. From now on, it’s Gamgee LLP.

I’m sincerely glad to welcome you back to Law21 and to finally make my return to the blawgosphere. (Are we still calling it that?) I put this blog on hiatus back in December 2014, partly because I was edging towards burnout after six years of blogging, and partly because I wanted to write a book and I needed to clear the decks completely to make that happen.

I assumed, at the time, that since I wasn’t blogging, law firms wouldn’t call me about speaking engagements so often and I could devote enormous amounts of free time to writing. I also assumed that authoring a book was pretty straightforward, something I could knock off over the course of a few solid months. These turned out not to be the soundest assumptions I’ve ever made.

In the event, I’ve been kept busy over the past 18 months giving presentations (including to law firms, state bars, in-house lawyers, the ABA, CBA, LMA, NALP, and a few other groups) on the accelerating rate of change in the legal market. As well, I’m very happy to say, I’m close to completing the final draft of my book, and I anticipate a publication date sometime within the next few months. And as you’ve probably noticed, I’ve redesigned Law21 itself, expanding it from a blog to a full-scale platform for my business and a resource centre to which I’ll be adding free downloadable materials in the coming weeks. (A grateful shout-out to Rob Wilson of Stem Legal for the website build and to Mark Delbridge of Delbridge Design for Law21’s new logo).

I’ve also been fortunate to have had several report writing opportunities come my way over the last 18 months, and if you’re interested, you can find a selection below:

But what I’ve really missed during my lengthy sabbatical is the opportunity to write for you, here at Law21, about the changing legal market. So you can look for two new posts later this week and two more the week after that, because it sure seems like there’s a lot to talk about in the legal market right now. Just in the last few months, for example:

  • Artificial intelligence has taken over the legal profession (judging from breathless media reports, anyway),
  • Non-lawyer ownership of law firms has become radioactive (thanks so much for that, Slater & Gordon)
  • Gigantic accounting consultancies are about to consume the legal market (directed by Michael Bay, in theatres Friday),
  • Legal Ops are rewriting the entire in-house counsel playbook (directed by, I don’t know, let’s say M. Night Shyamalan)
  • Someone in New York thought it was a good idea to start paying first-year associates $180,000 a year (<eyeroll emoji>).

Human sacrifice! Third-party litigation financing!

The funny thing is, though, that while it might look like the apocalypse out here, it doesn’t really feel much like it — at least, not judging from the lawyers and law firms I’ve been speaking with recently. I don’t see nearly as much denial and detachment as I have in the past — lawyers clinging to the belief that these are all just “isolated incidents” or “temporary conditions” or whatever other coping mechanism they developed to deal with all this craziness.

Instead, I’m meeting more and more lawyers who’ve developed a remarkable degree of sangfroid about legal market change and an admirable readiness to just start dealing with it already. Law firms are still making questionable tactical decisions for nakedly self-serving reasons, of course, but that’s a more or less permanent condition of the species. What’s different, from my perspective, is that there’s a growing consensus within the profession that the market really has changed for good, and so we might as well just accept it and start moving forward. It looks to me like lawyers are finally treating legal market upheaval the best way they know how: as a problem to be understood, addressed, and solved.

Altogether, this just seems like an exceptionally timely and opportune moment to get back into blogging about the law. So I really hope you’ll join me, up here in the cheap seats where the ushers rarely venture, as we try to make some sense of it all in the months and years to come. And thanks, very much, for holding my seat until I got back.

…famous last words

And thus, at last, I fulfill a long-held goal of using an album title from my favourite band in a blog post.

You can always tell when a blog is nearing the end of its natural life: the author starts making apologies for not having posted in so long. I’ve seen enough defunct blogs in my time whose last post, after several quiet weeks, reads like the start of that letter to the distant cousin you met on the previous summer’s family vacation: “I’m sorry for the lengthy delay in writing back to you….” After that post comes the long silence, and inevitably, one day, the 404 message. I’ve always firmly intended to avoid that sort of outcome, which is why we’re here today.

Be assured, I’m not shutting down Law21. But I am putting the blog on hiatus for the next several months, and when it returns, this site will look very different. If you’re a regular reader (and I truly am grateful if you are — especially if you were here back when the blog looked like this), you’ve surely noticed the drop in my posting frequency this year: this is just my 14th post of 2014, and it’s no exaggeration to say that in Law21’s earliest days, I sometimes wrote that many entries in a month.  My first post this year didn’t arrive until mid-April.

These long pauses and sporadic entries have surprised me as much as anyone, because I sure don’t feel like I’ve run out of things to say or interest in saying them. I’ve tried to figure out the causes for this, and in true Law21 fashion, I’ve ended up with neatly bulleted list.

  • Work keeps taking precedence. I didn’t start this blog so that people would ask me to come speak to them about the legal market; but that’s been the happy result, and now I’m travelling once or twice a month to meet with groups of lawyers, law students, or legal professionals somewhere out of town. Whenever I do find myself with enough breathing space to start crafting a new post, it’s usually 4 pm on a Friday and the kids are home from school. But that’s dangerously close to making excuses, to being the delinquent correspondent: you’re working hard too, and kids are always and forever coming home from school.
  • I’ve written a lot. I mean, a lot. I’m closing in on 450 posts and 400,000 written words here at Law21, not to mention dozens of articles and posts elsewhere, and I’m getting close to crossing that line where I’m repeating myself just for the sake of saying something. (You might be inclined here to channel Jed Bartlett telling CJ Cregg, when she asked him if she was crossing a line: “Look behind you.”) One of the standards I set for myself when I began blogging was that if I didn’t have something I felt was original or important that was worth your time to read, I wouldn’t post just for the sake of posting. I’ve really tried to stay true to that.
  • There are many more voices now. When I wrote my first Law21 post in January 2008, there weren’t many people talking about change in the legal marketplace. Today, market upheaval is on everyone’s agenda, and not only the blawgosphere, but also law firm conference rooms are now bursting with conversations about it (not to mention social media, which barely existed back then). I’m hardly claiming causation or even correlation; I’m just saying that my burning desire to spread the word about change and the need for lawyers to respond is now shared by many others, reducing the need for me to be always yapping away here.

I can feel the cumulative effect of these forces and others pulling me away more and more often from this space, to the point where I risk people no longer knowing whether or not Law21 is still a going concern. Hence this post, which is meant to make some assurances:

  1. Law21 is a going concern, because change in the legal services market is only just getting started, and I intend to hang around doing as much play-by-play and colour commentary about it as possible.
  2. Later in summer 2015, I’ll have a brand new website at this location, which will include a re-energized blog, downloadable slide decks, law school lesson plans, and yes, information about a full-length original book.
  3. I’ll still be an active participant (and will lead whenever I can) in conversations about the legal market, principally on Twitter, at Edge International, at Stem Legal, and in your local legal periodicals.

I usually end each year at Law21 with a summary of where market change has taken us in the last 12 months and where we can expect to go next. Given the circumstances, I’d rather end this year, and this stage of Law21’s evolution, with the following thoughts for the legal profession:

We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to re-conceptualize what it means to be a lawyer. The underlying fundamentals of the legal market — clients, competitors, tools, regulations — are changing so quickly that a new climate now surrounds us, a new landscape has emerged under our feet, and even greater upheaval is on the way. In the very near future, we will find that we’ve adapted how we run our businesses, how we deal with our clients, and how we feel about being lawyers. That’s the end game, regardless of how happily or willingly we get there.

The only real question is whether these adaptations will be forced on us, involuntarily and painfully, or whether we will start the adaptation process ourselves, and thereby maintain some degree of influence over the lawyers we will become and the market in which we will practise. I urge lawyers, as I’ve urged so many times here in the past, to take the second path.

It might feel like we’re powerless in the face of change, but that’s simply not true: we have the ability, and the unprecedented opportunity, to redefine the contours of lawyering, before impersonal market forces do it for us, and to us. Take control of your professional destiny, by accepting the things we cannot change and moving swiftly in the direction of those we can.

Here’s the three-part process I recommend to get us there. Make three columns on a piece of paper or a computer screen, and do the following:

1. In the first column, make a list of everything you love about being a lawyer: what inspires you, excites you, interests you, gets you out of bed and into your office every day because you look forward to the opportunity to do it. This is the best of being a lawyer: it’s also, very probably, the parts of a legal career least susceptible to automation and outsourcing, the parts most closely associated with actual people and actual service.

2. In the second column, make a list of everything you really don’t like about being a lawyer: what bores you, discourages you, upsets you, gets put off or rushed through because the thought of facing it makes you question your career choice. This is the worst of being a lawyer, and while some of it might be unavoidable, much of it is not. And I’ll bet that a great deal of it really is amenable to change, systematization or outsourcing to more appropriate providers.

3. In the third column, make a list of everything you wish you could do as a lawyer, but that circumstances seem to prevent: the help you’d really like to provide, the people you really wish you could serve, the insights and assistance and improvements you would love to be able to facilitate. These are the new possibilities of being a lawyer, and for the first time, these possibilities can be translated into reality. Change is fluid and dynamic, and it can flow from all directions, including from you.

Take the first and third columns, synthesize them, and make the resulting integrated activities and characteristics the foundation of a different and better legal career for you and your colleagues. Take the second column and look for ways to move these items off your desk and ideally, out of your practice altogether, into the waiting arms of a growing array of specialists who will do them for you, and do them better than you.

This process — call it reinvention, re-engineering, reconfiguration, reconceptualization, or any similar concept with a “re”- prefix attached to it — would not have been possible 30 years ago, or 15 years ago, or even 10. It was just barely possible in January 2008, when I started blogging here; but not only is it possible today, it’s also necessary: it’s the key to a viable, worthwhile, meaningful legal practice. Take this post home over the holidays and tinker with these ideas. Bring back your three columns in the new year and show them to both your work partners and your life partners, and see what they think.

Make 2015 the year you decide not only to accept the things you cannot change, but to be the driver of the kind of change you actually want to see in your own practice and your own world. This is your opportunity, and this is your time. Make it happen.

Jordan Furlong says, quite simply, thank you very much.

 

Me again

So I thought you might be interested in reading about what I’ve been up to lately outside of Law21 (seeing as how I sure haven’t been up to much here). I have a couple of new posts percolating for this month and next, and by mid-summer, I hope to announce what I think will be a very interesting new project I’ve been working on. Please consider this roundup of recent writings and appearances to be a down payment until then.

1. Writing

Back in February, at the request of the very good people at Lawyers On Demand in the UK, I published The New World of Legal Work, a white paper that explores the changing nature of law firm operations and legal talent demands (brief summary here). The report generated a great deal of interest, as well as media coverage in the Law Society Gazette, The Global Legal Post, Law Times, Legal Futures, and many lawyer blogs worldwide. As a companion piece to “The New World of Legal Work,” I also penned my first entry for the ABA Journal‘s Legal Rebels column, “The Rise of the Agile Lawyer.”

I’ve also been writing at Stem Legal’s Law Firm Web Strategy blog. Early in the year, I wrote about law firm brands in an online legal market, advising lawyers that your “brand” is very simply who you are, what you do, how you do it, who you do it for, and what you’re like to deal with; your online presence is supposed to clarify, amplify, and support that brand. Later on, I talked about how lawyers can break down the most common barriers to blogging, suggesting five tactics that can remove the obstacles blocking lawyers from contributing content on a regular basis.

Other writing projects included contributing a chapter to Attorney At Work’s newest publication, New Math, New Money: A Lawyer’s Guide to the Changing Business of Law. My section was titled “Three Ways to Compete in the Coming Legal Market“: Owning the very narrow band of high-value lawyer-exclusive work, streamlining all your systems to compete for wide-access work, or creating new opportunities altogether. I also wrote a couple of articles for the Edge International Communique: “What ‘overcapacity’ really means” (it’s a self-deluding buzzword) and “Why would your best clients fire you?” (What are your most dangerous vulnerabilities with your top clients?)

 2. Interviews

I spoke with The Globe And Mail about the landmark interim report of the Law Society of Upper Canada’s ABS Task Force, which I think brings Ontario astonishingly close to approval of non-lawyer ownership of law firms within the next couple of years. I also talked with Law Times about the remarkable inroads that the Big 4 accounting firms are starting to make (evidently to little fanfare) in the Canadian legal market. I spoke at length with Lexpert magazine about how in-house counsel are and aren’t using social media. And just this week, I was interviewed by Law360 about how law firms can do a better job recruiting and retraining their non-lawyer staff (I suggested that not using the terms “non-lawyer” and “staff” would be a nice start).

And if you have lots of time and an unusual amount of interest in my views on the legal market of today and tomorrow, as well as an interest in my winding career path to date, you could read this extensive interview I conducted with Los Angeles law blogger Amy Wan.  

 3. Videos

At the tail end of last year, I sat down with my friends at the Canadian Bar Association’s National magazine for a lengthy interview about the Canadian legal marketplace, what happened to it in 2013 and what 2014 should bring. More recently, following a presentation to the Chief Marketng Officer Summit at the annual conference of the Legal Marketing Association, I spoke with Colin O’Keefe of the LexBlog Network about what’s facing law firms right now and what firms need in order to respond to these challenges. (Mark Beese of Leadership For Lawyers in Denver attended that LMA CMO presentation, among others, and filed a report for Attorney At Work.)

4. Presentations

I taught my first-ever law school class back in January, a one-week intersession course at Suffolk University Law School in Boston titled “21st-Century Lawyering.” (My chief takeaway: law students are a lot readier for the new legal market than most lawyers are.) In February, I delivered two presentations in Seattle: one to the Seattle Legal Technology and Innovation Meetup (highlights in the @LegaltechSEA Twitter feed) and one to the Puget Sound Chapter of the Association of Legal Administrators. And in March, I teamed up with Susan Hackett of Legal Executive Leadership to co-deliver a presentation about the legal marketplace to the OnRamp Fellowship, a non-profit organization helping women lawyers reintegrate into law firms after a period of time away. (See the sidebar on the home page for a list of my upcoming appearances.)

That’s all I’ve got for now — more posts to come as soon as I can manage them.

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. 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.  

Law21 3.0

If you’re reading this post at Law21, then you already know about this. But if you’re subscribing via email or RSS, you might like to come see the new look and feel we’ve created today.  In our first re-design in nearly four years, we’ve given Law21 a cleaner, cooler, and sharper design, with a new colour scheme, improved navigation, and additional features. Here are some of the highlights:

  •  Access to more posts from the front page, thanks to an automatic “Read More” feature
  •  More detailed and updated content about me and the work I do in “About,” “Appearances” and “Consulting
  •  Easier access to all my previous Law21 articles in the new “Archived Posts” section
  •  Links to more than 50 of my best original articles in other periodicals in “Published Works
  •  A great new dashboard at the bottom of each page, including “Subscription” information; and
  •  A new photo, just because.

All the credit for this tremendous new look goes to my web design professionals: Jesse Collins of Moxy Webworks in Mississauga, Ontario, who also brought you Law21 2.0 and keeps this site humming along at top speed, and my longtime collaborator Tony Delitala of Delitala Design in Oakville, Ontario, who also brings you National magazine and the Edge International Review. My sincere appreciation to, and strongest recommendation of, both of these amazing talents.

I hope you like our new look, and I hope you’ll continue to come by and read my ongoing dispatches from a legal profession that is, more than five years after Law21 first launched, still very much on the brink.

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.

Writing on the road

It’s been a few months since I last posted one of these roundups, so I thought I’d pull one together today. Here’s a series of articles I’ve written elsewhere or interviews I’ve given to various print and online periodicals. As usual, I’ve been busiest at Stem Legal‘s “Law Firm Web Strategy” blog, but I’ve also been working with several other sites and publications. As always, my thanks to the publishers for giving me the opportunity to address these topics — I hope you find them interesting and worth your time.

1. Stem Legal’s Law Firm Web Strategy

Where’s your fingerprint? Making your online profile unique

The 4 most frequent flaws of law firm content

How CLE providers can use social media

Crafting standout practice group descriptions

Big-picture thinking from a social media guide

Linkable content: The backbone of social media marketing

In our private universe: Being yourself on social media

2. Edge International Communiqué

Why are you recruiting? Time to rethink your approach to new lawyers

Managing partners: Stop fighting the last talent war

3. Attorney At Work

The do’s and don’ts of conference tweeting

Client-driven recruitment

Would you hire yourself?

4. ABA Law Practice Magazine

Lawyers and social media: Can legal advice be crowdsourced?

5. The Lawyer (UK)

Disenfranchising the turkeys: The decline of partner power

6. The Lawyers Weekly (Canada)

How David fights Goliath with social media

Rethinking legal ethics in a wi-fi world

7. Slaw

CPD and the presumption of competence

I was also fortunate enough to be interviewed for or mentioned in a number of articles published in other media, including:

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.

Seen and (on one occasion) heard

Before launching into a roundup of what I’ve written elsewhere, I wanted to let you know that I’ll be in Chicago next week for a series of meetings, in particular the College of Law Practice Management‘s 2011 Futures Conference at the University of Chicago-Kent College of Law. In addition to presiding over the 2011 InnovAction Awards ceremony, I’ll be moderating a panel titled “Law Practice Without Borders,” with Simon Chester, BeiBei Que and my Edge International partner, Pam Woldow. If you’re in Chicago October 28-29, you should make time to attend the whole conference: it’s an extraordinary lineup of speakers and topics that you won’t find anywhere else.

On to the roundup: here’s a list of the articles I’ve written (and in one case, the conversation for which I was recorded) in the last several weeks.

Stem Legal’s Law Firm Web Strategy Blog:

Slaw:

The Lawyers Weekly:

Attorney At Work:

The Lawyer (UK):

CBA PracticeLink:

Freedom is The New Rich:

Edge International Review (Co-authored):

As always, I hope you enjoy reading these entries as much as I enjoyed writing them.

On the road and on the Net

Before providing a series of links to articles I’ve recently published elsewhere, I want to bring your attention to my next two public speaking appearances and encourage you to come check them out.

First, I’ll be in Toronto this Friday, August 5, at the Annual Meeting of the American Bar Association. I’m honoured to be appearing on a Presidential CLE Panel sponsored by the ABA’s Standing Committee on Technology and Information Systems. “eAttorney, MiAttorney: How Technology Has Changed Communication and Collaboration With Clients” runs from 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. at the Metro Toronto Convention Center, Room 716B, 700 Level, South Building. My fellow panelists are the real draw: Dennis Kennedy, Daniel Schwartz and Michael Downey will join me to discuss the impact of technology on the lawyer-client relationship, legal ethics, and the legal marketplace generally.

Secondly, I’ll be in Nashville on Monday, August 22, at the International Legal Technology Association’s 2011 Rev-elation Conference. I’m greatly looking forward to moderating the panel “Offshoring and Outsourcing: What It Means for Your Firm and Your Job” at 1:00 pm in the Governor’s C Ballroom at the Gaylord Opryland Resort. I’ll be joined by two high-profile experts in this field, Toby Brown and Kevin Colangelo, in a session introduced by V. Mary Abraham. We’ll be discussing the impact of outsourcing on lawyers, clients, and law firms’ operations, technology, infrastructure, while forecasting where the future will lead us in  this area.

If you expect to be at the ABA or ILTA conferences, please drop me a line and let me know.

With those two stops noted, here’s my regular roundup of work published elsewhere.

1. Two entries at Law Firm Web Strategy, the Stem Legal blog:

(a) “Politeness, please: Etiquette for LinkedIn and Facebook connections” — Avoiding the “Hey, you!” approach to online networking.

(b) “Law firm branding, social media and strategy” — First you get a brand, then you take it online: putting the horse before the cart.

2. Two articles from Edge International’s monthly newsletter Communiqué:

(a) “The myth of the two-tiered associate track” — In which I try to deflate a popular but misleading buzzword.

(b) “The purpose-driven law firm” — What is the point, from the market’s perspective, of your law firm? Think carefully before you answer.

3. Two columns for The Lawyers Weekly:

(a) “Pricing risk in the legal process” — Risk can be quantified, and lawyers can (and will) prove this as we get better at pricing our services.

(b) “The truth about (online) branding: it’s all about the client experience” — The original column on which the previous Stem post was based.

4. Two posts for Attorney At Work:

(a) “Be the world’s most client-accessible lawyer” — Meet your clients at their times, on their turf, and on their terms.

(b) “Shall I compare thee to a summary judgment?”– I really enjoyed writing this one: poetry as an exercise in lawyer clarity.

5.  Two columns for Small-Firm Innovation:

(a) “When it comes to marketing, small is powerful” — I really think solo and small-firm lawyers are poised for a marketing breakthrough.

(b) “Will your client someday say: You’re Dead2Me?” — Excellent client service is a legitimate competitive advantage. Really.

6. And for a change of pace, one regular column at Slaw:

(a) “Articling: back to basics“– Wherein I take a good, long look at Canada’s articling student system and ask some hard questions.

7. Finally, I’m always pleasantly surprised to hear from the media and happy to give them my time. Here’s where I’ve shown up recently:

(a) “Ontario attorney makes the case for (legal) poetry in motion— Montreal Gazette (re: my Attorney At Work post)

(b) “Outsourcing pioneer blazes a new trail: bringing work back from India” — National Law Journal (re: the repatriation of outsourcing)

(c) “Half off: Nevada lawyer bets on discount model” — ABA Journal (re: the coming rise of low-priced legal services)

That’s about enough links for one post. Again, please drop me a line if you’ll be at the ABA or ILTA meetings this month — I’m always very happy to meet my much-appreciated readers.

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.