01. The Old Model is Broken
For hundreds of years, lawyers have served as civic stewards, upholding justice and the rule of law. Lawyers serve an important role in our society—correcting injustices, exonerating the innocent, and advocating for the sick, injured, and marginalized. It’s a noble profession.
And despite the important work lawyers are doing, the old model of practicing law is inherently lawyer-centric. We’ve positioned lawyers as elite professionals who are uniquely able to solve people’s problems. Somewhere along the way, that unique and elite status has encouraged us to build firms centered around the whims and egos of lawyers.
“Non-lawyers” working at firm were often viewed as less important than the lawyers (we think this is terribly dumb and hate the term “non-lawyer” to refer to people and we only use it here to show you how lawyers have created a distinction that demeans the important work that many people do). If you were a client of the firm, you’re expected to interact with the firm on the lawyer’s terms—the lawyer decides when and where to meet, when and how to communicate about the case status, how to manage the case, and what the client will spend.
It turns out that the lawyer-centric professional firm model was never really a strong business model. It didn’t incentivize lawyers to use best business practices. For instance, because most firms still price their work on an hourly basis, the owner is often the most profitable lawyer and is only incentivized to bill. Time spent working on business strategy, systems, technology, accounting, management, creative problem solving, and hiring, managing and mentoring employees is viewed as lost revenue. The list of problems goes on and on.