VQ Newsletter October 2011 - Report on the changing legal profession


This issue of VQ Newsletter is dedicated to VQ Knowledge and Strategy Forum, with reports from the predictions on the changing legal marketplace and the discussions and different views on the future for law firms and the legal profession. Key note speaker at the forum was Professor Richard Susskind, who gave his predictions on the future of legal services, which was then followed by a panel discussion on this topic from a Swedish perspective, where the discussions were rather heated from time to time.

Read more about the panel discussion in these articles by Joanna Goodman: Susskind - the Swedes are not for turning and Helene Rothstein Sylvesten (in Swedish): Bråttom med förändring för advokatbyråer.

Discussion panelists Björn Kristiansson, Anne Ramberg, Richard Susskind, Stefan Erhag and Joakim Edoff.

Richard Susskind on the changing legal profession
Professor Richard Susskind has specialised in legal technology for 25 years and is an independent adviser, a frequent speaker on the future of the legal profession and the author of numerous books, most recently "The Future of Law" and "The End of Lawyers?" Susskind claims that the future for lawyers could be either prosperous or disatrous. He predicts that lawyers who are unwilling to change will struggle to survive, but that lawyers who respond to the changes and embrace technology and new ways of providing legal services will find opportunities for new and exciting lines of business.

At VQ Forum Susskind emphasised the "more for less-challenge" when clients have more legal issues to handle, but less in-house resources and less budget to spend on external advisers. Law firms can meet this challenge with two different strategies. The first is the efficiency strategy, where focus is on reducing costs of routine legal work and generally to make the legal service more automated along the line from bespoke to standardized, systematized, packaged and commoditized, as well as by using new ways of sourcing the legal work by oursourcing, off-shoring, sub-contracting or combined multi-sourcing ways. The second strategy is the collaboration strategy, where law firms ask clients to share the costs of legal services, by online closed communities for collaboration, by online legal services, automated drafting and electronical legal marketplaces.

Susskind also clarified the different approaches to legal service that clients and law firms have by the "fence on the cliff and the ambulance-illustration" on this picture:

Clients want legal risk management, not legal problem solving, they want dispute avoidance, not dispute resolutions, i.e. clients want a "fence on the top of the cliff, not an ambulance at the bottom". Unfortunately however, most law firms have focused on making the ambulance better and faster, and not focused on providing fences.

Susskind emphasised that law firms have to change their structure and to rethink their business completely frompricing differently to working differently. The golden age of profitability for law firms have passed. Leaders who are innovative will still be prosperous, but followers and late adapters will be dragged down to cost competing and struggle for survival.

In the previous mentioned article Susskind - the Swedes are not for turning Joanna Goodman provides a comprehensive review of Richard Susskind's presentation with an indepth analysis. You can also read more in this article by Emma Dufva (in Swedish): Utmanande framtid för jurister and in this blog post by Christine Kirchberger: VQ Knowledge and Strategy Forum 2011.

KM's role in new business models
Chris Bull, partner at Edge international, provided examples of some emerging business models on the legal market and presented his views on the importance of knowledge management to support such new business models. According to Chris, knowledge management and the important role for the legal business could better be described by naming it knowledge entrepreneurship or legal product development. KM has stopped being something "nice to have" for law firms and have turned into a "must have". Law firms that are not sucessful with their knowledge management will fail on the changed marketplace.

This topic was followed by Martin Salomon at Regi, who presented the research from Sweden's largest survey among buyers of business law services, Law Firm of the Year (Sw. "Årets Advokatbyrå") and provided insights on the importance of strategic KM work to meet the demands from clients and how they believe law firms should develop the business in order to be a better partner. It was quite clear to all that clients ask for more proactivity and regular follow-ups and that they favour firms that are more innovative in both pricing and how services are provided.

Later on the founders of VQ, Ann Björk and Helena Hallgarn, elaborated this topic with some examples of law firms that have taken the opportunity for knowledge management to deliver genuinely business critical contributions and to gain more business and closer client relationships. Please see the presentation slides for more details. VQ also introduced the concept of the digital associate as an analysis of which parts of the legal business that could be replaced or improved by the use of technology and processes. Read more.

Law firms and social media, innovation and business intelligence
Rob Ameerun presented the use of social media for law firms in a very appreciated way, with tips on how law firms could benefit by using social media and examples of the effective use in legal business, such as the knowledge pages of Dirkzwager law firm. Rob Ameerun's presentation can be found here.

Mikael Arborelius then gave insights on how the changing market makes innovation necessary, but how the change makes innovation difficult. To handle the complexity of change you have to know, visualise and be agile by using simple tools dedicated for the task and to measure along the way to constantly improve. Björn Immerstrand then continued the innovation aspects and gave a presentation on business intelligence and how understanding business data operatively can drive change and improve business.

Message from VQ Forum
The message that was most clear from this day at the VQ Forum was that the legal market is changing and how this should be regarded as an opportunity, not something to resist. Grasp the opportunity! Be innovative and prosperous by embracing change, new technologies and new ways of providing legal services. Be a leader not a follower!

Pictures from VQ Forum and the Cocktail Reception

Here are some more pictures from the forum and the subsequent cocktail reception: VQ Knowledge and Strategy Forum 2011 Photos

Legal Innovation Blog
On our blog we discuss the latest issues involving knowledge management, business development and new and exciting technology for the legal market. All posts are available here, but here are some of the latest posts that we would like to highlight:

Innovation pays
Law is virtually the only industry where a negative answer to the question "Are any other firms doing this?" is met with disappointment. But doing what everyone else is doing will only get you everyone else's results. Innovation pays, but are law firms ready to lead instead of follow? Read more.

Increasing production line approach to legal work by general counsels
University of Oxford's report on general counsel's views on outside counsel and non traditional legal-service providers, have found an increase towards the commoditisation of law. In the report's afterword, Professor Richard Susskind has predicted that the relationship between large law firms and general counsel will evolve in three phases, with the "endgame" around five years away.Read more.

Recommended articles
Here are some interesting articles or blog posts by others that we would like to recommend:

Articles about VQ Forum
For all articles and blog posts about the forum, please seeVQ Forum in media. All tweets can be found on Twitter #VQForum.

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