1. Law firms and in-house law departments are “lawyer-centric” in managing their own workflows. They “reward the ‘exceptional, do-it-all-and-charge-for-it’ approach” that relies almost exclusively on attorneys’ skill sets.
2. As a consequence, law firms and in-house law departments “fail to determine the best skill set for most efficiently executing many jobs that are routine parts of corporate life.”
The legal profession’s expectation: The lawyer is meant to be star of the show. Anyone other than lawyers on the team is simple an “assistant to” the attorney.
Patrick Lamb — along with his law partner Nicole Auerbach — is one of a tiny group of law firm attorneys whom I view as genuine pioneers in legal innovation.
His message in a tweeted video on April 2, and a blog post on April 1, argues that the legal profession has got it wrong.
Patrick Lamb’s blog post uses examples from his own career to describe his journey from lawyer-as-autonomous-genius to lawyer-in-collaboration-with-other-disciplines.
Trial lawyer that he is, Patrick Lamb argues concisely that the legal industry needs to move from “just lawyers” to “multi-professional teams” in his tweeted video:
“[You] need to break down the work that needs to be done into a series of processes,
“And see who is best able to execute on those processes.
“The surprising answer is that, more often than not, you don’t need a lawyer to do the job.
“You need somebody who’s capable, and who is a process-focused person, to administer the process, except an occasional spot where a lawyer’s judgment is required.
“And if you break down work into those series of processes, you find that you can frequently get it done, much better, and also much cheaper.”
With Patrick Lamb’s statement in mind, I invite your attention to my April 3, 2020 post, where I wrapped up my 5-part series: “‘Ethics’ Rules Shape the Legal Services Market: To Protect Clients? Or Just to Protect Lawyers?”
In that 5-part series I reviewed 3 different legal services offerings opposed by authorities in the legal profession. And I argued that each of these innovations has or had, “three elements that, I believe, true legal innovation circa 2020 requires”:
“1. Each involves people other than licensed lawyers in key operational roles — bringing in lawyers only for those roles that require the judgment of a licensed, law school-trained attorney: ….
“2. … Each features a rigorous business process — one in which attorneys are merely one element ….
“3. Each features substantial use of technology — for speed, for reduced cost, and for greater accuracy in work product ….”
Although the legal profession’s rules militate against Patrick Lamb’s multi-disciplinary approach in favor of a lawyer-centric approach, Lamb’s approach is, I believe, better management of everyone’s talent:
“Indeed, most law firms, clinging to the partnership model that is designed to reward the “exceptional, do-it-all-and-charge-for-it” approach, vigorously oppose any change that would open the industry up to people who did not graduate from law school. They continue down this path despite the overwhelming evidence demonstrating the value of a multi-disciplinary approach to solving business problems.
“This legal-centric world view leads some law departments, for example, to have only lawyers review contracts and have those lawyers focus on the business terms of contracts even though lawyers do not perform the contracts. And it has caused law departments to fail to determine the best skill set for most efficiently executing many jobs that are routine parts of corporate life.”