My older son Echo's friend Cole was asked this question the
other day: "Which of your friends has the coolest house?"
The answer surprised some in the room.
Cole and Echo have some friends with some pretty big houses with some pretty impressive toys. Cole actually identified Jack's house as his favorite. Jack lives in a late 1800's style downtown home which is probably 1600 sq. ft. When Cole was challenged on his answer, "Jack's house is small!" Cole responded this way……..
“Jack’s mom lets us do whatever we want. His house is the most fun.”
Cole understood the concept of “value.” Value does not mean size of the house or the price of the toys. The value was the house where the most fun could be had.
Law firms are starting to understand value better than they ever have before. It used to be that they focused on the superficial metric, such as hourly rate and whether or not law firms passed on phone charges. Increasingly, the sheer size of a law firm and opulence of its lobby are losing their places on the value chain. In some instances, the spoils of excess are working against firms as clients begin to discuss concepts they used to only think about, such as whether or not they want to help fund fancy offices. Lean and mean boutique firms are sprouting up across the land where investment in technology and training designed to provide better customer service are garnering attention of growing and large companies. The discourse between lawyers and clients continues to be more value-centric. Return on investment for each legal dollar spent is taking its place as a top priority.
Lawyers have a tremendous capacity to provide solutions for clients. Many aspects of the law firm business model these past two decades have focused on incentives which have pushed lawyers to cause more problems than they solve. Hourly billing certainly hasn’t helped.
We are entering a new age of law. The internet and blogosphere have not only created long overdue discussions concerning individual legal models but allowed law firms such as ours to find their way onto the computer screens of clients located around the world. Law firms which report to the “full service” are giving way to niche practitioners who can offer true expertise concerning the single, narrow legal problem faced by a client. The greatest young lawyers are no longer left with a single choice of big law in order to make the money they are worth. (Just ask my partner, Brian, who is in his second year of practice and making more than most of the partners at other law firms in our medium sized town.)