Everybody Else is an Idiot

I’ve written multiple posts in
praise of allied professionals
, specialists, and experts who are
increasingly vital to the delivery of competent legal services. But just as
lawyers are not alone in the legal supply chain, lawyers are not alone in
bearing responsibility for its deficits. As we head into ILTACON, I want to restore some balance
to The Force by pointing out that we are all (author included) predisposed to
myopia and stay-off-my-lawn syndrome.
Three extreme anecdotes:
  • A CIO I know feels like he serves in the clandestine
    our failures are known, our
    successes are not
    . He is so fed up with criticism from his lawyers that he
    reflexively dismisses any complaint as rooted in a toxic mix of technophobia,
    change aversion, and ignorance. He has developed a bad habit of publicly
    complaining that his lawyers are endangering sensitive client information by
    copying it to their unencrypted personal devices. Yet, if you relax the man
    with a few libations, he will admit that the frontline lawyers have a point.
    For years, he has been unable to get the budget he needs to upgrade the firm to
    a mobile but secure digital work environment. Lawyers who need to take work
    home or on the road often have to choose between security
    and actually getting the work done. Unsurprisingly, they choose the work. But
    the CIO does not totally understand why. Since security is part of his mandate,
    it trumps all else in his mind.
  • A lawyer I know was handling a sizable matter
    involving a high volume of PDFs. Among other things, she needed to be able to
    redact information and compare two versions of the same document. She
    determined that her best option was to upgrade to her PDF software to the Pro version. But when
    she approached the office manager, she was told that such an upgrade was
    impractical because the partners in her practice group had no use for the
    additional features. The firm had a policy that partners are the
    first to get upgraded hardware or software. Information technology was
    treated as a perk rather than a tool–as if the soldier should never be armed
    with a higher caliber weapon than the general or the professional video editor
    must limit herself to the hardware and software the company CEO needs to send
  • A knowledge manager I know was disheartened that
    her new KM system was being ignored by the lawyers. She understood why they were not yet using it for research. First, it had to be populated with tagged
    documents. But she could not fathom why the lawyers were not taking the time to
    tag documents and populate the system. After all, the system was purchased for
    their benefit. And, if used properly, the system would make their lives easier.
    She did not recognize the incentives that ran counter to her program. She did
    not comprehend the tradeoffs between billable and nonbillable time. She did not
    see the free-rider problem of expecting a lawyer to take the time to update a
    searchable database with information that the particular lawyer would never
    need the database to find. Instead of trying to overcome some fairly common
    (though still challenging)
    collective action problems,
    she spent her time wondering how lawyers could be so smart in some areas and so
    very dumb in others.
Specialization is one of the hallmarks of sophistication.
Specialization drives economies of scale. But specialization can also lead to
diseconomies of scale as work becomes siloed and communications
explodes. It is not easy to collaborate
for real
. Lawyers do themselves and their clients a disservice if they fail
to recognize the value that can be provided by allied professionals in
technology, project management, pricing, marketing, knowledge management,
research, professional development (including training), etc. But allied professionals do themselves and their
clients a disservice by not understanding what the lawyers actually do and why.
There are lawyers who recognize the potential contribution
from allied professionals. And there are allied professionals who genuinely
comprehend the lawyers’ perspective. But, in general, there is a failure to
communicate that both sides are responsible for remedying. All of us are
susceptible to making the fundamental
attribution error

We disagree because we explain our own
conclusions via detailed context (e.g., arguments, analysis, and evidence), and
others’ conclusions via coarse stable traits (e.g., demographics, interests,
biases [, job title, credentials]). While we know abstractly that we also have stable relevant traits, and
they have detailed context, we simply assume we have taken that into account,
when we have in fact done no such thing. (Overcoming

Just as I recommend structured
between law firms and their clients that includes nontraditional
, I am also in favor of internal dialogue between lawyers and
allied professionals. Given how law firms and departments are typically
structured, the responsibility is ultimately on the lawyers to be willing to
work differently. There are already too many mandates for allied professionals to
change everything while making sure that the lawyers don’t have to change
anything. But, when the opportunity presents itself, allied professionals need
to be able to comprehend the lawyers’ perspective, understand the tradeoffs the
lawyers face, communicate with the lawyers in terms the lawyers understand, and
offer viable solutions that minimize the disruption to client work. Neither
side should assume that the other is petty, parochial, or obtuse. And
both sides need to work at not appearing petty, parochial, or obtuse.

I plead guilty to every crime outlined above. Even recognizing my own shortcomings, I can’t say that I’ve found
a great message. But I am evolving. As
someone who genuinely wants legal professionals to work differently, I was
seduced by stark statements like, “if you dislike change, you’re
going to dislike irrelevance even more
.” I was attracted to the self-certain rectitude and the sense of inevitability. And, in the long run, I do believe that the only thing that we can say for certain about the future is that it will be different. But the
long run
can be a quite long. In the mean time, there are minds to be
change and real gains to make. I have therefore concerned myself with being
able to articulate positive cases for near-term change like deepening
, return
on investment
, profit,
and quality
of life
. The core message remains the same. But finding a framing that
resonates with my intended audience has improved its salability.

While I enjoy going to ILTACON to figure out what’s coming
in the next decade, I have to say the most valuable sessions and conversations for
me are those in which people explain how they got their organization to embrace
the advances of the last decade. I can’t think of any such story that is primarily
one of shoving an innovation down everyone’s throat. There are always holdouts.
But they are holdouts from a new consensus that only exists because of buy-in
and effective change management. The hard work of collaboration
is really hard. But it is also necessary.

Some people are idiots. But not many. Mostly, we are hard-working, well-meaning people who all bear some responsibility for our
failures to communicate.


Casey Flaherty is the founder of Procertas. He is a lawyer, consultant, writer, and speaker focused on achieving the right legal outcomes with the right people doing the right work the right way at the right price. Casey created the Service Delivery Review (f.k.a., the Legal Tech Audit), a strategic-sourcing tool that facilitates deeper supplier relationships by facilitating structured dialogue between law firms and clients. Given the current market realities, there is plenty of room for clients to get higher quality work at lower cost while law firms increase profits via improved realizations.

The premise of the Service Delivery Review is that with people and pricing in place, rigorous collaboration on process offers the real levers to drive continuous improvement. Proper collaboration means involving nontraditional stakeholders. A prime example is addressing the need for more training on existing technology. The problem is that traditional technology training methods are terrible. Competence-based assessments paired with synchronous, active learning offer a better path forward. Following these principles, Casey created the Legal Technology Assessment platform to reduce total training time, enhance training effectiveness, and deliver benchmarked results.

Connect with Casey on LinkedIn or follow him Twitter (@DCaseyF).

from Blogger http://thomassmithblog.blogspot.com/2015/08/everybody-else-is-idiot.html


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