Sunday, June 24, 2007

Practice managment- the future?

I like reading Adam Smith, Esq.. Yes, it caters mostly to big firms but not everything for the big firms does not apply also to small firms like myself. Today, I get an update on article where I got to say that little firms can learn from and possibly teach the big firms.

"IT Commoditizes Everything." Discuss deals with a lot of issues that might seem to apply only to the mega-firms, but I suggest reading it. I caught myself thinking back to when I ran a consumer bankruptcy practice. Computer programs for preparing the bankruptcy petition commoditized consumer bankruptcies. The same applies to all areas of the law where the routine, document preparation areas can be subjected to computer preparation. I see this changing our fee structures, how we deal with clients, and how we provide our services.

I suggest reading the whole post, but I found this part particularly interesting:

The increasing embrace of IT, and its true embedding within the essence of what firms do, comes, I hasten to add, with one enormous challenge which no one to my knowledge has yet answered in a satisfactory way that might yield a long-term equilibrium solution: That challenge is commoditization.

Its sources are various, but primary among them:

  • In the online world, we increasingly expect information to be free; why should clients expect otherwise from their law firm?
  • Technology fuels arms races: If it is true that "among UK firms, however, there are a number of examples where firms have generated revenue through subscription-based, lawyer-light projects," then how long will it be before those services begin to invade practices higher up the value chain?

My view is more sanguine, primarily because I believe the phrase "commoditization" is flung around far too loosely and generates free-floating fear divorced from real-world implications. I'm closer to the position articulated by David Jabbari, Allen & Overy's head of knowledge management, who believes that “Clearly, any information that can be commoditised is going to be, and will be free,” but who also pointed out that we've known for a hundred years, since Henry Ford introduced the assembly line, how to efficiently build a car, and yet the auto industry is one of the most hotly competitive and least "commoditized" around.