I have recently been reminded of the compulsive glory of Boomshine.
Monthly Archives: February 2009
What motivates pioneers within the changing legal scene?
I was talking to one innovative practitioner in a different field yesterday about what motivated him to pursue change within his industry. His response was brutally frank.
“I am p***ed off with how we are perceived.”
Why do pioneers rock the boat and embrace what are termed as “Destructive technologies”? Are they not talking themselves out of their jobs?
I was also reading a post about law firms using wikis from smallfirmsuccess.
I suspect that that pioneers experience both internal and external motivations.
The internal can broken down to push me/pull me motivations. disatisfaction for example could push someone onwards. Ambition, to be a Godin type leader, for example, would pull them along.
Motivations might be sensory, or things we feel, such as those highlighted above. In my own experience I feel curiosity above all else – “How else could we do this and what would the benefits be?
Internal motivations might also derive from personality typing. For example, consider the Belbin Team model and types suggesting that we fall into certain roles within teams. Those roles are
[hmmm, how do I bullet point in WordPress?]
8. Team worker
and 9. Investigator.
You can read more on Wikipedia and Belbin here.
If we skip over to another different discipline – Occupational Therapy – we find a very advanced discourse on the nature of Professional reasoning. In Clinical and Professional Reasoning there is an argument that therapist’s “Reasoning processes have been linked to their assumptions about an essence of human experience as a well as assumptions about the body.”
That suggestion applies equally well to lawyers. Our professional reasoning processes can be linked to our assumptions about an essence of human experience as well as assumptions about the law.
For example, if I entered into law, family law in my case, with a view to helping, serving, creating solutions, then that will colour my approach.
If I entered in the sense of needing to win at all costs, then that gives me a different approach and different behaviours.
In the former example, the demise of public funding may well cause me anxiety about access to justice and lead me to look at alternative professional service delivery systems to open up access.
If I am driven by the notion of play and playing, then maybe change is the grown up equivalent of creative play. Can I legitimatise exploration, building, creating alternative scenarios with a business objective?
We have plenty of external motivations to change. The market, Legal Services Act, new service providers, new models of communication and access to information.
The starkest example of external motivation at the moment is redundancy. How will those professionals who have been let go react? Will they rush to find similar harbours to those from which they have come or will they feel resentment and disillusionment with those old models?
My earlier article Redundant Lawyers, Mavericks and Positive Deviants ponders on what would happen if creative sorts find themselves unfettered by conventional practices and group together? Here we may well see the culmination of their internal creative bents being pushed forward by external motivations such as redundancy.
Our competitors within a marketplace provide other external motivation – everyone else is doing it, so should we, or perhaps a market driven need to distinguish ourselves from our competitors.
I suspect this motivation can be problematic. If we adopt new tech just because everyone else is doing it, but do not believe in its utility or merit, then such initiatives are going to fail.
Having considered what might motivate practitioners to seek change, the next question would have to be “How do we motivate others to follow the lead or get on board?”
This challenge is ably highlighted from the opening article from smallfirmsuccess;
“The problem with Wikis, however, may be quite the opposite. What I have seen, however, in past attempts to use Wikis for law is that they haven’t worked because of lack of participation. A friend of mine tried to create a Wiki of Minnesota law and couldn’t get anyone to post to it.”
That is very much the challenge that many innovaters and pioneers within firms will face. Showing that we can do something is only part of the effort. Effectively leading our colleagues to then do it is the next stage. That needs us to understand what is motivating us and how can we best discern what might motivate them.
This afternoon I set about reading Wikinomics (Tapscott and Williams). They mention Second Life. Alot. I had a look at second Life when it first came out. In those days I was still very self conscious about online networking and quickly logged out as soon as someone said Hello.
While reading I became curious as to how Second Life could be used by a law firm such as mine. Is this something I should also be pushing at my colleagues and employers? Can we use this?
Having downloaded the software I was impressed with how much there was to do but the range of options very quickly became a deluge. I was swimming in messages telling me how to do this, do that, keyboard shortcuts, “You can fly”, bad haircuts on the Change Your Appearance screen and way too much information about textures.
I was reminded why I love Twitter so much. It has an extremely stripped down offering. Tweets. 140 characters and that’s it.
One simple tool, albeit a very versatile one.
With Twitter the message is clear. With Second Life, I felt as if I was getting lost in the thing itself instead of being able to discern how I can apply the thing. For all of that I recall when I first entered Twitter. The public timeline there is a similarly disengaging experience. You need to populate your online arena with friends and contacts.
On that basis it would be rash to dismiss Second Life on the back of no more than 90 minutes stumbling around. What is clear though is that Second Life does not have the immediacy of other online tools. I am thinking that it would probably actually make sense to have a consultant develop a Second Life presence whereas it would be a nonsense to have consultants write your blog or Twitter comments.
For now though I will not be pushing my firm to open a Second Life office.
Since I shared my experiences on Twitter this afternoon, I have been encouraged to keep trying by @BettinaTizzy. In turn she has pointed me to her fascinating blog “Not Possible IRL” and especially her 10 secret tips for Second Life Newbies. Recommended reading, especially if you have dipped your toe and felt as bewildered as I did.
What are other peoples experiences of Second Life either from a social or commercial point of view?
The Lawyer reported last week that the top 200 law firms have made or are about to make 2261 people redundant. This article looks at a scenario where such redundancies could bring about a quickening in the changes and challenges facing the established practices and in doing so worsen the threats to conventional law firms.
Change vs conservatism
There is a world of change waiting to be unleashed upon the legal services sector, whether through the Legal Services Act, consumer demands or technology.
Countering that is a conservatism that rails against change which can be discerned within the letter pages of the legal press as discussed in my earlier blog “The Profession That Ate Itself Alive”
Status quo hates innovation. Instead, it seeks efficiency. It sees self preservation, through the years ahead, in larger numbers, leaner systems, in being harder, faster, stronger but still, remarkably, in being utterly conventional.
Even now as we see reports of redundancy upon redundancy, we hear how the cuts are required for the good of the firm as a whole, to enable continuation for the retained majority. The firm must and will go on, albeit in leaner shape.
Now, it seems to me that these very redundancies may well result in a tipping point scenario.
Maverick lawyers and positive deviants
I am not the only lawyer who is excited about change. I am fortunate though that I work for a firm who embrace ideas about future possibilities.
There will be many though who are gagged and deterred from writing, exploring, thinking and innovating because it will be frowned upon.
Consider, as Susskind writes “The mavericks within law firms – energetic, often eccentric, frequently marginalised, invariably demanding, single-minded individuals who pursue ideas that regarded in the early days as peripheral, irrelevent and even wasteful…Gradually, their innovations come to be recognised as significant and even client-winning.” (“The End of Lawyers?” pg 280)
Or what about Godin’s “Positive deviants” – “Heretics who are doing things differently and making change” (“Tribes” pg 113)
What happens when there are redundant positions in a firm? What if an organisation takes the decision, after a fully reasoned consultation period, to release those harder to manage, less conventional types?
You know the ones.
The ones whose faces just don’t, you know, fit?
What if it was the case that the top 200 UK law firms alone have released over 2000 maverick lawyers and positive deviants out into an already volatile marketplace?
What if, heaven forbid, they came together and started communicating, grouping, planning..? Anything could happen.
Just imagine the contacts they would share within their former client industries.
Just imagine the buzz they could create by harnessing social and business networking methodologies.
Just imagine the passion they could bring to the legal market as they innovate, wildly, without leashes and no-blogging policies.
Just imagine how closely they would align themselves with existing and emerging models of communication, knowledge management and information accessibility; how congruent they would appear to clients and clients’ expectations of how they should be able to work with their professional advisers.
If these things were to happen, they could herald a quickening in the changes and threats to the status quo. These fledgling, disruptive practices would emerge, convinced that the old school models which stifled them for years and then discarded them, need to be challenged.
Suddenly the possibility of TescoLaw and new entrants into the marketplace are not the only threat.
Instead, established, conservative practices will now also need to watch out for the impassioned mavericks and positive deviants they themselves unleashed, and the models that they created once they came together and found a shared purpose.
More conservative reaction in the Law Society Gazette letter pages this week.
The letter author wonders “Will we now see Professor Susskind eat a large slice of humble pie, presumably at the creditors’ meetings of those defunct practices?”
This is because two large conveyancing factories/organisations folded last week. According to the letter author they were the “Biggest examples of firms who followed …Susskind’s regular entreaties… to `commoditise’ legal work.”
Not quite the point is it?
1. Just because those models failed does not mean that legal practice can remain static.
2. Those ventures failed because of the downturn in the property market and economy generally and the massive reduction in bank interest rates, not because of lack of need for legal practices to adapt to technological advances.
3. Susskind does not suggest that legal services should be commoditised in any event. That is a frequently repeated shorthand reduction of the argument. There are no less than 3 levels of work between the conventional bespoke level and the far side of commoditisation.
What Susskind advocates, if I have understood the book correctly, and I think I have, is not that we rush to commoditisation at all. Instead, consider where we provide value to our clients, and where the intervening grades of service might enable us to provide those services in a fashion more in keepng with the markets changing demands and expectations.
At this time when we are celebrating Darwin’s life and writing, it seems to me that an analogous situation is seen in our own profession between those who embrace evolution – a word Susskind does use in place of commoditisation – of legal services and the legal profession’s equivalent of creationist thinking.
Meet Craig, he’s one of the directors of QualitySolicitors.com
I’ve only just met him, but I like him already, such is the wonder of embedded video. He is friendly and reassuring not only to the customer to me as a solicitor.
The website feels fresh, dynamic. It hints at some further innovation within its legal resources section, although the link is as yet unpopulated.
I hope it does well and look forward to talking to Craig a bit more about their vision. At first I was anxious that this was a rearguard conservative defence against the challenges arising from the Legal Services Act.
The website so far encourages me that it is not. Let’s see how they grow.
I have just received this week’s copy.
It has become something of a dark sport in my office to guess how many pages each weekly issue will contain. This week we are at a middling 36 pages.
It has been lower. It used to be much higher.
The biggest culprit for the loss of volume is the sparsely populated recruitment section. This previously took up 10s of pages, with several large recruitment agencies having glossy double spreads and even the small classifieds taking up 5-6 pages.
This week, by way of example, there are only 15 classified jobs in the small ads section, and 21 in-house, local authourity or spot ad recruitments.
Remarkably only 2 agencies are advertising, and then with single page ads only – Chadwick Nott and G2 Legal.
To some extent therefore the Gazette can be taken as a barometer of our profession. When in becomes a bit weightier in the hand again perhaps we can all feel a little more comfortable.
This afternoon I am meeting with some colleagues who provide training to some of the largest law firms. We are meeting to consider their training needs.
How can we go about identifying and providing training in the changing market?
Sure, a walkthrough of the Legal Services Act can be thrown together although it would not be very stimulating.
What about looking at web tech as a vehicle to demonstrate what is possible and why those possibilities are attractive?
If we open up awareness on the tools, training then can feasibly follow a more creative, participative approach with delegates largely designing their own content and application.
Now that is better.
If we preface Susskind’s central argument that the prominence and demand for lawyers will be greatly affected by “A market pull towards commoditization and by a pervasive development and uptake of information technology” with the word “po” then the debate does not become a threat. Instead it becomes nothing more threatening than a fancy, or a hypothesis, a story perhaps to expand and improvise.
Accordingly we do not need to respond defensively or dismissively from our established world views. We can step into a more creative realm of thinking and discussion.
As Godin writes, we can look ahead to where the profession might be in 6 months time, or to Susskind’s brave new world and be afraid, because if those forecasts are right then the ramifications are terrifying. Or we can turn to creativity, which in itself will bring in change and the possibility of very different outcomes.
To conclude, the greatest irony lies within “The End of Lawyers?” itself. If we do engage with the book then we discover that Susskind is not waiting to dance, gleefully, on the graves of our profession. Instead, he comes across as a concerned and generous colleague, warning of the chicanes ahead.
He offers an incessant stream of ideas, provocations, business development starting points, new business models, new shaped services and platforms. There is a treasure trove of creative thinking starting points.
The book quickly swings from being a threat to a smorgasbord of ideas and professional services. Which ones we choose to graze upon, which ones we leave behind, and the ones that we use as a platform to go on and develop whole new feasts is down to us alone. But whatever you do, don’t choose to turn down the invitation to join in.
I wanted to demonstrate the potential of new forms of communication and relating to the marketplace. It was important, I believed, not just to present an idea, but to present an example.
I thought I would lead with introducing YouTube and the idea of having our very own YouTube account. I prepared a mock up of what the end product might look like, how it would sound and the kind of message it would carry. I am thinking of the story in Tribes about the lady who mocked up a whole range of furniture for a sales pitch, instead of just presenting diagrams. – Initiative, pg 95
Sure it took me several weekend hours to learn the how-to’s but it was enjoyable. That probably speaks volumes in turn about needing a passion to drive the idea forwards.
The response was not what I expected at all. I expected reticence, suspicion and, frankly, a “No”
The response was an excited “YES!” followed by a raft of ideas from other people about how our account can be used. The enthusiasm is proving to be contagious and MogersTV is proving to be a success and a focus point within our organisation for the world of opportunities that lie ahead.
A reshoot of the video followed and can be seen below.
The moral? Believe in what you are pushing forward and do it passionately.