Run w-big dogs.jpg

Not too long ago, on a LinkedIn group, I read an interesting post by Dion Algeri titled,“Long distance clients, part 2. How does this impact legal marketing?”  Ms. Algeri makes a cogent argument that, as technology becomes more sophisticated and accepted, geography is becoming a far less significant factor in selecting solution providers.

I heartily agree, and hasten to add that, in addition to geography, lawyers need to escape another artificial constraint: the narrow economic and intellectual confines of the Law Department.

If lawyers accept the notion that, as Ms. Algeri argues, the market is becoming global, opening up more possibilities to escape the tyranny of geography, they’d also be wise to shed the tyranny of the Law Dept.

Looking at a company solely through the tiny aperture of a small cost center, such as Law, is as artificially limiting as is geography. If a company has 1000 employees, and only 20 of them work in the Law Department, outside lawyers who limit their relationship-building to the Law Dept. effectively don’t exist for the other 980 employees.

Worse, the law department is often trailing the play.

Is the law department the source of new products, services or other corporate innovation? No. By the time a business problem has matured to where it’s defined as a legal problem, it’s dated. The innovators and other key stakeholders have moved on to the next challenge.

With exceptions, the Law Department’s job is to serve as a very specialized Purchasing Dept.  They rationalize and normalize the purchase of recurring legal service to drive down the overall cost of this large line item. That charter is not well aligned with the aims of outside counsel who aspire to do interesting work — and maintain their pricing power.

It’s said that there are three forms of value:  Fast, Cheap, and Great.  Of those, a client may have any two at a time.  The Law Department is charged with getting Good and Cheap.  Out at the pointy end of the stick, they’re looking for Fast and Great.

Which game is more rewarding to you?

Get off the Law Department porch and get out into the business units, where the big dogs with the interesting, high-impact, emerging problems live.

Mike O'Horo

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