Law firm pricing is a hot topic just now, and this is welcome – not least to the consulting community. But there is a problem. Often, an iron law is disregarded. Before price comes the process. Firms introduce “innovative” pricing models without looking first at how they produce and then wonder why their line is
“Before price comes the process” applies to businesses of every kind. Look, for example, at how the big supermarkets have responded to the discounters: sweating to match them on price, they are still lumbered with their expensive traditional structures, while their leaner rivals steam on, offering terrific prices, but a basic environment and service levels which amount to precious Lidl.
Though the picture is changing, many lawyers still find it demeaning to have their work described as a process, even if most of it contains a profusion of standard elements. Vast amounts of administrative grunt underpin the core advice, which may have been given many times in similar situations.
Every job is a process, and it is in no way demeaning to acknowledge this. Move away from legal services for a moment and consider, say, a great orchestra. As its music soars into the auditorium, it may seem to capture the very essence of freedom, but it will never get off the ground without a tightly disciplined, collaborative process between the musicians, the conductor, and all the backroom people without whom there would be no performance. Only when there is rigour, leadership, method, technique and refinement is the highest form of self-expression possible.
See it as “less for less”
Since Richard Susskind coined the phrase “the more for less challenge” to describe the pressure on law firms to deliver more work for lower prices, it has become axiomatic to say this is the biggest problem facing the profession. But lately, a new phrase has entered the debate, “less for less” – a catchy way of stating an old truth, that the best response to pressure on price is to make the process more effective: reduce effort, time and cost, give the client a better experience and reap the rewards of more business and higher profits. Since the biggest cost by far is human beings, the spotlight has fallen pitilessly on how to have as much work as possible done by more junior people, without sacrificing quality. This focus is precisely why attempts at process improvement are so often frustrated, not by people at the top, but by the middle tiers, who know a threat when they see one.
It is easy to say that you can’t make an omelette without breaking
My own firm, which delivered a range of process and technology-driven services to institutions, had almost 450 people, only 22 of whom were lawyers. But it is notable that some of the most impressive work in this area is being done not by firms who specialise in
I cannot emphasise too strongly that this is a world open to all. Whether you work on the high street or in a high tower, the opportunity is clear, as is the risk of not grasping it.
Though Vincent Van Gogh lamented “I have put my heart and soul into my
In this issue
- Land registration and leases
- Disharmony and disharmonising
- FCA reviews: not the end of the story?
- A host of claims for guests
- Pensions auto-enrolment: some clarity for trainees
- Reading for pleasure
- Opinion: Stewart Cunningham and Nadine Stott
- Book reviews
- President's column
- KIR: have your say
- People on the move
- You and whose mind?
- Deil tak the hindmost
- Cultivating judgment
- Women: paths to power
- Sorry: no longer the hardest word?
- Fairness in the balance
- Minimum pricing: the latest
- Planning: shakeup on the way?
- New burdens for employers?
- Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal
- Ancillary rights as real rights
- Life at the cutting edge
- One form if firms hold client money
- Further fraud alerts issued
- Law reform roundup
- Guidance: duties re legal rights
- From the Brussels office
- Rights in chaos: asylum seekers and migrants in the EU
- Mirror wills: can I change?
- Renewal: the impetus for review
- Ask Ash
- The day of minimis is here
- If it ain't broken...?
- The voice of youth