6 comments regarding my practice and the practice of law:
Office. To many of my friends the traditional physical indicators of competence and professionalism imply rigidity and cost and, ironically, are intimidating rather than comforting. They identify with website creativity and greenness rather than oak.
Formality. Recognizing which clients feel greater trust and comfort when interacting with a lawyer wearing a suit is no less important than recognizing which ones do not and instead see a suit as a business condom and a tattoo of dissimilarity. Finding the right balance of formality is important.
Time. Nobody likes keeping track of or paying for legal services in 6 minute increments.
Full circle. The single practitioner practice of 100 years ago gave way to the large law firm, allowing for cost sharing and specialization (making it difficult for the single practitioner to compete given that lawyers in larger firms can become very knowledgeable in narrow areas of law and lower their costs, if they choose to do so). Technology now allows for a small practice to be competitive again:
- access to online databases are sold to lawyers on a per user basis (rather than on a per firm basis, which was the case for paper version legal texts);
- document automation and software allows a lawyer to be efficient even without an assistant;
- communication need not be in person, allowing for virtual lego offices.
The same model will work for law firms with each lawyer working as an independent contractor, loosely tied by the desire to be tied (for a particular project but not necessarily for all projects). Clusters of lawyers will form. The same lawyer may cluster together with lawyers of the same practice area but different years of experience (e.g. to work on a prospectus) and also cluster together with lawyers of different practice areas (e.g. for referrals). The “firm” will be a multi-dimensional dynamic concept, rather than a static list of employees. Think of the possibilities for stay at home mommies and daddies and people that may have left the profession not because of the work but because of the work structure.
However, the virtual lego firm will of course not be for everyone. The need for food to be on the table tends to get in the way of taking on financial and business risk. Conflict check issues may sometimes increase rather than decrease complexity and administration. Further, the flexibility of the structure is dependent on each piece having, or hiring, its own organs (e.g. marketing, accounting, administration). A virtual lego firm will not be for those who want the digestion done for them and at the end of the day the structure may trade one set of inefficiencies for another.
It works for me though. To some extent I am now part of such a virtual “firm”, a firm which includes advisors, consultants, and other lego pieces. My organs are under my control. My life is under my control and I am loving it.