Forbes contributor David Parnell recently submitted an article in which he interviewed Richard Susskind entitled “Moses to the Modern Law Firm”. For those not familiar with Richard Susskind, he has worked in the legal technology industry for over 30 years, is the author of numerous books, has advised major firms and national governments, and currently serves as President of the Society for Computers and Law.
This past year I was asked to deliver a presentation on Susskind’s book The End of Lawyers to our sales staff at our annual sales meeting, and I have become a fan of his writing and insights into the potential future of the legal services marketplace. Although much of Susskind’s analysis is focused on transformation within the law firm market, there are many implications for corporate legal departments who are driving this transformation with initiatives to reduce legal spend and generate more value out of each dollar they spend with outside counsel.
“Possibly the biggest strategic issue facing any law firm in the world today is the extent to which they continue doing routine and repetitive, administrative, process-based work.” –Richard Susskind
In the interview, Susskind states that the biggest challenge facing law firms is the extent of routine and repetitive process-based work in which they are engaged. Law firms that are strategic and realize that the competitive marketplace for routine legal service will push prices down will develop alternative sourcing models. Examples of these models include lower cost regional firms, legal process outsource providers, or technology-based processing. The UK is ahead of the US in terms of liberalizing legal services, and there are new firms coming into the market with imaginative offerings and business models to compete for more routine legal work. The prediction is that the US will catch up over time as competitive pressure in a global market creates the need for substantial liberalization in US markets.
Much of the transformation that Susskind describes is good news for US- and UK-based corporate legal departments, as long as we assume the quality of legal work received does not decrease. The competitive pressures and trend towards liberalization should create additional avenues to decrease corporate legal spend over the years. These forces, combined with the Enterprise Legal Management technology that Mitratech provides, enable corporate legal to analyze results and make strategic business decisions on shifting work to those firms that represent greater value and further fuel the need for new legal service offerings. In my role as a product marketer for Mitratech over the past 4 years, I have witnessed an increasing desire from legal departments for their firms to bundle repetitive work as well as introduce financial initiatives to control costs through alternative fee arrangements, auctions, and tendering. It will be interesting to see how US-based law firms evolve to meet these initiatives.
This year at Mitratech’s annual user conference, Richard Susskind will deliver the keynote speech on improving in-house legal teams’ ability to navigate change in the legal industry, and I look forward to discussing the topic with him and our clients. Interact 2015 will be held in New Orleans, Louisiana from October 4-7, 2015.