Like many people these days, I’ve been reading a wide variety of sources about politics over the last several months. It’s in this context that I ran across an article in Forbes magazine discussing lawyers’ duty to society in upholding the rule of law, specifically in the context of the recent (and currently stayed) executive order on immigration.
Don’t worry: I’m not going political here. I have my opinions, you have yours, maybe we agree and maybe we don’t, but that isn’t the purpose of the conversation you and I have each week via this newsletter. (As a side note, a comment along those lines, followed by a shift in topic, is likely enough to avoid political conversation if you’re networking or even advising clients on the effects, actual or anticipated, of legislative changes.)
The article caught my eye in part because of this paragraph:
To those who engage in the popular parlor game of predicting the extent to which technology, new delivery models, and other professionals will marginalize lawyers, consider that they will never substitute for the essential work performed by lawyers– this past weekend and going forward. Only lawyers will be on the front lines of protecting the rule of law–as well as representing their individual clients. Technology, new delivery models, and other professionals and paraprofessionals will enable lawyers to function more effectively to serve the interests of their individual clients and society.
Unquestionably true: although innovation is important for effective and efficient delivery of legal services (and thus for client retention and client attraction), the services provided and the value of those services is the key. That’s a good measuring stick to use when you consider making a change in the way you practice: does the contemplated change benefit your client, or is merely change for the sake of something new? Some lawyers started sending video messages in email, for example, thinking that more personal and likely to build a better connection with clients. Did it? Maybe. But was it useful to clients? Unless the visual was necessary, probably not. In contrast, a litigator might provide a video discussing preparation for and conduct during a deposition, which might well be useful to a client who hasn’t been through the process before.
Ask yourself periodically, “for the sake of what or whom am I considering making this change?” Even if you aren’t making a change that rises to the level of practice innovation, keeping this question top-of-mind will provide you with a check to ensure that you’re making changes for the right reasons.