Daily Dispatch

Five Reasons You Should Care About “NewLaw”

By | May.16.14 | Daily Dispatch, Innovation, Law Practice, Strategy, The Friday Five

Friday Five

You’ve heard the buzzword. You’ve seen the hashtag.

And perhaps you’ve found yourself asking, at some point, “Just what is ‘NewLaw’? More importantly, why should I be remotely interested in it?” Having recently set out to catalog dozens of entities that have been or could be described as NewLaw, I came up with a working definition:

“Any model, process, or tool that represents a significantly different approach to the creation or provision of legal services than what the legal profession traditionally has employed.”

That covers law firms, lawyer agencies, managed legal service companies, online document providers and a wide range of legal technology start-ups.

So much for identification. What about the “why should I care” angle? Here are five reasons why I think you, Citizen Lawyer, ought to be interested in NewLaw.

1. NewLaw has modern market priorities. Almost all NewLaw players base their operations around “better,” “faster” and “cheaper.” I guarantee this is what your current and future clients care about, too. And NewLaw is getting to them first.

2. NewLaw is changing market expectations. By offering clients legal goods faster and cheaper, NewLaw is making clients realize that such things are possible. And it’s a very short path from “this is possible” to “I expect this as a matter of course.”

3. NewLaw is creating new markets. Many of the entities under the NewLaw banner are focused on unserved or underserved clients, the untapped market that lawyers traditionally have not seen fit to tap. You could follow these entities through the door they’re opening.

4. NewLaw is a potential resource for you. By focusing on discrete, packaged or commoditized offerings, NewLaw represents an outsourcing option for accomplishing tasks more effectively or efficiently than you could by doing them yourself. It’s a cost-saving tool.

5. NewLaw is potential competition to you. Countless industries attract disruptive providers that enter a market at the fringes with low-cost and lower-value offerings — and then move steadily up the quality chain. The thing they’re moving toward is you.

You might not be interested in NewLaw. But NewLaw is quite interested in you.

Jordan Furlong delivers dynamic and thought-provoking presentations to law firms and legal organizations throughout North America on how to survive and profit from the extraordinary changes underway in the legal services marketplace. He is a partner with Edge International and a senior consultant with Stem Legal. Jordan blogs at Law21: Dispatches from a Legal Profession on the Brink and is the author of “Evolutionary Road: A Strategic Guide to Your Law Firm’s Future.” Follow him on Twitter @Jordan_Law21.

Evolutionary Road

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4 Responses to “Five Reasons You Should Care About “NewLaw””

  1. Mike O'Horo
    16 May 2014 at 10:59 am #

    “Countless industries attract disruptive providers that enter a market at the fringes with low-cost and lower-value offerings — and then move steadily up the quality chain.”

    Good observation. One example of this that most readers have experienced is in consumer electronics, where Chinese OEMs began as low-cost component manufacturers for established brands. They moved up the value chain by making integrated sub-assemblies, then entire white-label products. They realized that the real value resided in the consumer brand. Now former OEMs like Haier, LG and Lenovo are trusted consumer brands, having displaced RCA and others for whom they were OEM suppliers. IMO, the most graphic of these examples is Lenovo, which advanced from being the unnamed OEM of IBM’s ThinkPad, to “ThinkPad by Lenovo,” to simply “ThinkPad.” When your brand displaces an icon like IBM, the evolution is complete.

  2. Mazyar Hedayat
    16 May 2014 at 4:24 pm #

    Jordan – nice, concise definition of “New Law.” Mike, appreciate your comments. But before the Chinese were working their way thru consumer electronics the Japanese were writing the blueprint. They successfully gutted American auto manufacturing. It was astounding at the time. I remember because I grew up in Detroit not far from a Fiero plant.

    Now you believe lawyers will feel the effects of market disruption? You’re right. So is Jordon, Richard Granite, Lawrence Lessig, and many others. But it’s like witnessing a train wreck in super slow-motion. We lawyers have a self-defense mechanism that is the envy of the Auto, Electronics, Tobacco, and Soft-Drink industries, They lobby the lawmakers. We ARE the lawmakers. We ensure that nobody can eat our lunch. You can’t fight that kind of power just by building a better mousetrap.

    I am as hopeful as anyone that “New Law” (or whatever you’re calling it this decade) will actually make a dent. But I’m not holding my breath.

  3. Bill Josten
    19 May 2014 at 2:52 pm #

    Mazyar, you’re right that we as attorneys really do hold the reins on who can compete with us and how. But only to an extent. The recent ethics opinion from Texas last Friday is illustrative. The opinion said a firm can’t use the term Office or Principal in the title of a non-attorney employee. So you can’t have a CMO who’s actually a marketer, not an attorney. It all relates back to the rules about non-attorney ownership of law firms. But I think we’re really working against ourselves.

    When you look at what the industry is clamoring for, especially in terms of process management, pricing, and business development, it makes a lot of sense to have a C-Suite full of experts. But how can you get a real CMO on board if they either have to be an attorney and not a marketer to get the title, or you can’t call them a CMO? A recent article I was reading made the argument that firms aren’t going to be able to steal top level talent by offering them the title “Marketing Director.” And I agree.

    The real trouble the industry is going to feel, maybe not so much BigLaw but MidLaw for sure, is going to be from the disruptors like Legal Zoom. They’re not a firm, so the same rules don’t apply. And when we apply them the way Texas does, it really cuts against our industry.

    BigLaw will feel the change too, just in a different way. Midsize firms will try to make up for their losses by stealing more and more from the big boys, who are going to be much slower to adapt.

    All rulings like the one from Texas do is limit the depth of the bench we can call on to help innovate.


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