My way or the highway. We’ve all heard this phrase and there’s a curious correlation to how so many businesses operate – that is, until they come to an inflection point. May I suggest that legal services is coming upon its own inflection point – and this is where the path divides – to the past or to the future.
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Regulated industries are, by definition and by intent, artificially protected from truly free markets. There are strong arguments both for and against regulation both for the benefit of consumers as much as for the professionals and organizations that are regulated. This is not my issue. My issue is, notwithstanding regulation, that there will always be a point at which markets adapt and shift. Markets find new levels. It happens all the time. Law will be no different in this important aspect.
When we look at issues solely through the confining lens of “what we did before” or “how we’ve always done it”, we will reinvent the same thing – at best, we generate incrementally better improvements of the same outcome. This is what Ford referred to as coming up with “faster horses” instead of the automobile. It is critical to look beyond the historic lens perspective and look from outside.
Case-in-point, what we term “litigation finance” has the potential to open up entirely new ways of financing (read: “buying”) law in much the same way that car financing revolutionized car ownership – making new markets, not just making the existing products accessible. Similarly, the application of automation to law has already delivered new “products”, not merely the creation of greater efficiency. It’s entirely feasible to see “law product” providers displacing what once would have been a services only proposition. The scalability and profitability of tech far outweighs its service-based competition.
There is a singularly large amount of data in the legal sector – generated historically and in real-time. It has been hard to access, largely overlooked and under-utilized – like natural resources we know are valuable but the mining technique has not been available. No longer. The technology-driven ability to capture and harvest data more comprehensively creates an entire new world of product opportunity in data products, not simply data-enablement of services. As we harness data, it brings us new products and in so doing it reveals new, scalable value for customers.
We are embarked on a decade of change in which options will multiply exponentially. Aside the aggressive march of technology, consumer understanding of what is possible and buyer sentiment is shifting rapidly. Law may be regulated still but the inflection point will not be averted.
My favorite ancient proverb comes to mind:
“Change is a dragon. You can ignore it, which is futile. You can fight it, in which case you will lose. Or you can ride it.” [Anon.]
There is simply no going back. Rather, the question is one of creating the future – and owning the framework on which it is built.
If any of this rings a bell, why not join the conversation here on High Performance Counsel. We feature the leaders of tomorrow’s industry – the individuals, organizations and solutions that are creating the technical and professional framework around which the next decade in law will be built.
Founder & CEO, High Performance Counsel