• Tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be in (or a customer of) the legal business?
I graduated from Law School in 1984 and always had a bit of a contrarian and entrepreneurial bent. A computer company client asked me to be General Counsel in 1988 and that exposed be to a more metrics-oriented, systems thinking approach than I had seen in law. So ever since then I have been trying to integrate those streams.
• What do you do for a living right now?
I sold part of the company I started, OnRamp Systems, to Elevate Services, the Law Company, and now I am starting a single purpose law and consulting firm called, unsurprisingly, OnRamp Advisors. We help corporate legal departments implement metrics to improve Alignment across the company, better Control within the legal department, and better Value from law firms. And I am working a lot with Elevate as a member of their Advisory Board, helping legal departments implement the changes they need to improve their performance.
• What has been your greatest triumph and your greatest success in the legal services field and what did you learn from each?
What did Kipling say? “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster…And treat those two impostors just the same.”
• Do you think the legal industry is headed in the right direction, the wrong direction – or which direction?
The legal world is unquestionably headed in right direction. By [Panglossian] definition, the direction we’re heading in must be right. The fork in the road is whether the direction we’re going will be more like (i) the best of the rest of the world or the worst of the rest of the world, and (ii) the best of the legal world or the worst of the legal world. The more we insist on the uniqueness of law, the more likely we are to combine the worst of both.
• Who – or what – inspires you – and why?
I like it when people find ways to collaborate to maximize their performance. I find that very energizing.
• What advice would you give to the younger generation contemplating law as a career?
Not my First Rodeo on this question; I was the pre-law tutor in Eliot House in 1982 when I was in law school.
- If you are absolutely 100% committed to the idea of being a lawyer for a purpose you believe you can achieve through law, you should do it.
- If you have an intuition that law would be better if it were more “New Normal,” and you can see how you can help lead that, and find a place for yourself that works, then you should do it.
- If you’re going into law because you can’t think of what else to do, or because it seems like a reasonable or safe way to combine a few objectives, then, as I believe Mr. T. said, “the forecast calls for pain.”
• How ready for change do you think the legal industry is?
Law is exactly as ready as it should be. Having spent a fair amount of time in dynamic environments outside law, and in the more dynamic precincts of law, I have concluded that the fundamental issue is how we measure performance. The single best way to improve performance (or in your word, “change’) is to measure performance better. This is a transition that nearly every other field from Medicine to Baseball has gone through – from looking at individuals’ activities and efforts to looking at outcomes and what can be learned from outcomes to improve performance.
• Is more – or different – leadership required? In what ways?
Again, we have the right leadership for the time we’re in. I think leaders in Law are increasingly recognizing that the world that Law is part of is embracing a new dynamism faster than they are, and that to do the best job they can requires being more part of the world, not less part of it.
• How deep do you think will be the inroads of technology in the industry?
Duh…. Technology is a tool. Like anyone else, lawyers will figure out how to use appropriate tools to succeed.
• In ten years, do you see an industry much as it is – or do you see new players, new technology and an altered state?
• Are consultants and lawyers looking increasingly similar? Should the distinction continue?
• What are your thoughts on the increasing availability of data to guide client-side procurement of legal services?
Is it better to be uninformed or informed?
• Lawyers have typically regulated to keep non-lawyer investors out but that’s a two-edged sword these days. What are your thoughts?
As Adam Smith said, “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”
• What’s the one most significant factor that will drive change in your view?
Measuring performance is the single most effective way to improve performance.
• Are we seeing the demise of the “profession” and the real emergence of the “business” of law?
Only if the ‘profession’ pays attention to the wrong heuristics.
• What do you consider is the greatest challenge facing the industry?
The failure of law schools to comprehend and embrace a world of transparency and prediction.
• What do you see as the greatest opportunity for the sector looking forward?
Historically law was the most intellectually serious and rigorous field, and legal rules the “ordering meta-information” to most complex systems. In many important respects, they remain the most important and economically valuable role in any economy or political system. Can lawyers reclaim it? TBD.
• Do you think law can improve its track record on diversity and inclusion? How?
By having better metrics.
• Will the current regulatory framework around law help or hinder it in the future?
Like any regulatory structure, if the primary purpose of the rules is rent-seeking they will eventually collapse.
• Who do you think are the greatest influencers on the industry these days?
Mark Chandler, Kent Walker, Jeff Carr and Liam Brown.
• If a law firm was a startup pitching for investors, would you be an investor?
Only if they were going to make money for investors.
• If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
Watching Episode 3 of Curb Your Enthusiasm
• What would you like to be known for?
I told Gary Hart not to go on the Monkey Business.
• What would surprise everyone if they knew (they may now).
• What’s your favorite hobby or activity outside of law?
Thinking about Law.
• What’s your favorite sports team?
• What’s your favorite city?
• What’s your favorite food?
• What’s your nickname – and why?