“Doing Church” and the future of law firms

notre dam

I am reading “What Matters Now: How to Win in a World of Relentless Change” by Gary Hamel. He describes an address he gave to Christian church leaders and the factors he identified as reasons for falling congregations. One of these is holding onto legacy beliefs about how to “do Church” including:

  • Church happens in church
  • Church is a lecture, not a conversation
  • Clergy lead while lay people follow.

Hamel notes that there is an adherence to the same “delivery model”, yet that model is one developed by organisations, rather than the Bible.

It strikes me that there are strong analogies with law firms.  Most law firms have the same delivery model and equivalent legacy beliefs:

  • Law happens in a lawyers office – yet look at LegalZoom and the myriad of online legal services available.
  • Law is a lecture not a conversation – clients need to be told what to do. Yet we have had decades of Peter Drucker and others emphasising how clients want a Trusted Advisor who is part of the client’s conversation, rather than preaching to the client.
  • Clergy lead while lay people follow – sadly some lawyer still believe that it is their way or the highway.

In the age of discussions about AI and robot law, perhaps the distinguishing feature for lawyers will be less about innovation than empathy.  Empathy extends to understanding what works for the client and what doesn’t, what type of service delivery helps the client, and most importantly, what it is the client really wants and needs through an understanding of the backstory.

This may mean that the firm needs to have different conversations with the client about how services are delivered in order to provide value, or it may mean that the law firm needs to look at process improvements in order to ensure the price of legal services is proportionate, but at a cost which the firm can bear.

But there is no doubt that the key change in the delivery model is the power of the client, not that lawyer, to determine what it looks like.

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