Think Tank: Five Actionable Ideas for Lawyers to Advance their Market Knowledge

Think Tank

Think Tank: Five Actionable Ideas for Lawyers to Advance their Market Knowledge

The legal market is enduring drastic change. The business model, the source of competition and the technology that enables the business of law, are all evolving. While there’s been a great deal of academic emphasis placed on preparing emerging lawyers for such the change – practicing lawyers have been “largely overlooked.”

That’s according to Mark A. Cohen who published his ideas in Forbes: Legal Education’s Other Challenge: Retraining Practicing Lawyers For A New Marketplace.   “Most practicing lawyers were prepared for a legal marketplace that is vanishing,” he writes.

In Mr. Cohen’s view, legal service delivery and the practice of law are no longer synonymous.  The delivery of legal services today, he says, requires expertise in legal, technology and process. And that’s the challenge:

“…legal service delivery and the practice of law are no longer synonymous.  The delivery of legal services today, he says, requires expertise in legal, technology and process.”

“The vast majority of practicing attorneys have had little or no preparation for navigating the impact of technology and process/project management on legal delivery. Nor have they learned about collaboration, leadership, financial fluency, or other skills at law school or on the job where they are consumed by billing hours and making a living.”

His solution goes well beyond the CLE, which he labels a “box-checking exercise.” He calls for legal executive education programs including immersive “boot camp” style classes, continuing academic programs, and applauds the efforts of LawWithoutWalls, which he calls “a multi-disciplinary think tank.”

Such ideas are big and ambitious and good for the legal community. If there’s fault to be found, I personally don’t see it, but I did have a visceral reaction:  What about those practicing attorneys who don’t want to wait for such monumental thinking to unfold? What can an individual lawyer do right now to advance their own knowledge?

When we get right down to it, there’s quite a bit an individual lawyer can do today.  Below are five ways to get started.

1) Audio podcasts on tech and business.

While podcasts have been around a while, research shows podcasts have recently grown a sizable audience that’s affluent, educated and dedicated to listening.  Some large law firms have even taken to producing podcasts for their own communications efforts.

The Legal Talk Network currently offers roughly 40 different podcasts on a range of topics from legal marketing to law firm staffing to legal technology.  A sample of programs worth considering include:

  • Law Technology Now “explores the latest in legal technology.”
  • The Kennedy-Mighell Report provides “in-depth analysis of the latest advancements in legal technology, in addition to best practices for utilizing existing tools.”
  • ABA Journal: Legal Rebels “features men and women who are remaking the legal profession.”
  • In-House Legal provides a view through the client lenses by covering “issues pertinent to the general counsel and in-house legal departments.”
  • Robert Half Legal Report covers “important issues regarding hiring, compensation, staff management, and more.”

The benefit of podcasts is the ability to listen on-the-go, during a commute, while at the gym or even doing chores.  These are just a sample of podcasts available on your drive home today. For those who have never listened to a podcast, all you need is to download an app such as iTunes or Audible to your mobile device and then enter a few keyword searches.

2) Peruse the resources from professional associations.

Professional membership organizations in the legal community have clearly recognized the challenges Mr. Cohen writes about for Forbes. Over the years, many of these associations have put together an impressive wealth of educational information – much of which is freely available.

  • American Bar Association. If your level of engagement has been limited to the occasional letter or journal article, it’s worth looking perusing the resources the organization has amassed. One of our favorites includes the Legal Technology Resource Center (LTRC), which offers links to webinars, books, guides and publications.  The LTRC also maintains a law technology YouTube channel that currently hosts some 70 videos that can be viewed on demand.
  • International Legal Technology Association. There’s a good chance the technical staff in your law firms are members of International Legal Technology Association (ILTA). However, this organization produces plenty of information that will help lawyers get their arms around process, technology and new service delivery models too. ITLA maintains a searchable directory of content and recordings from podcasts, webinars and previous conference sessions. There’s an entire section dedicated to downloads stemming from its annual conference and it keeps an archive of video presentations on Vimeo.
  • Legal Marketing Association. If generating new business is important to your firm or practice area then the Legal Marketing Association (LMA) could be a valuable resource. In the same way, your technical staff probably belong to ILTA, many law firm marketers and business development professionals are members.  Many lawyers are not comfortable doing such activities, but it’s become increasingly important in a competitive market.  LMA provides podcasts, webinars, publications and an e-commerce store with modest premiums to resources for learning about business development, the business of law and technology management.

Many professional organizations also have local chapters that develop, curate and categorize useful information along these lines. In addition, the IT or marketing staff in your firm would probably be delighted to help you organize a self-development program.

3) Tap into legal consultant sites and blogs.

The legal community has a long line up of lawyers and consultants who have developed substantial bodies of work around the business of law, legal technology, or the general pace of change in the market. A few that stand out for me include the following:

  • Adam Smith, Esq. Bruce MacEwen and his team pursue “an inquiry into the economics of law firms.” The arguments made are both philosophical and data-driven.
  • Corcoran’s Business of Law. Timothy B. Corcoran provides straight talk with smart strategies for business development, compensation and other business of law topics.
  • The Mad Clientist. Michael B. Rynowecer is something of a scientist when it comes to law firm clients and understanding what’s on their mind.
  • Prism Legal. Ron Friedmann has maintained a widely-respected technology blog for many years from staple topics like KM and business intelligence to the emergence of A.I.

These are just a handful of the consulting resources available online.  The ABA Journal, for example, keeps a tally of authors by topics worth perusing.

4) Legal industry newsletters that curate news and trends.

There are several email newsletters in the industry that do a great job of curating business of law and legal technology viewpoints from across the industry.  While these newsletters capture key trends, one of the main benefits is that they often also include views you might have seen covered elsewhere – and that’s important in a changing market.

If the email deluge is a concern, you can create a “read you later” folder in your Outlook account and set a rule to automatically place these newsletters there.  Another good technique is to sign up for a separate email account – Gmail for example – and use that to manage subscriptions.  Both options will allow you to read at a time of your choosing and avoid adding to the distraction that surely already exists in your inbox.

5) Don’t overlook vendor resources.

In the pursuit of knowledge about a changing market, don’t overlook the vendor community. This is because vendors, including Aderant, study the market to understand the challenges law firms face and anticipate future needs.

Although we’d like to believe we do it better, many vendors provide resources like ours.  We certainly work hard at it.  Some of the resources include live webinars, on-demand webinars, a video gallery, case studies and market reports. Our market reports are generally neutral, free to download and never require registration. Some of the recent titles are as follows:

The Key to Knowledge is Discipline in Pursuit

The challenge for many is the vast array of options in the business of law and legal technology, which leaves some lawyers feeling overwhelmed.  However, you don’t need to do them all, instead, try a sample and see what works for you.  If a resource fails to deliver information that helps expand your knowledge, then it’s pretty easy to shuffle the deck.

In Mr. Cohen’s conclusion, he notes that “practitioner re-education must be a part of the legal education reform discussion.”  Indeed, we agree, and for those who don’t want to wait, there’s no reason you can’t get started today.

Recommended Reading: