Patrick Lamb is a true legal innovator. He is a founding member of ElevateNext Law, a business law firm aligned with Elevate Services to build the future of legal services delivery. From maximizing the role of data analytics and project management to unparalleled efficiency and use of non-hourly pricing, ElevateNext is designed to be the “Amazon of law firms.” Prior to ElevateNext, he was a founding member of Valorem Law Group, a business litigation law firm. Valorem pioneered the use of Value Fees for business litigation, believing fees can be fixed and incentives created for any business dispute. Valorem was named by BTI Consulting as one of the 22 firms “Best at Delivering AFAs.”
Tell me a little about ElevateNext.
ElevateNext is the evolution of Valorem, a scaled-up version. ElevateNext is a parallel firm to Valorem, built on the same principles and values, but aligned with Elevate Services, one of the world’s leading law companies. The alignment gives us access to Elevate’s technology and tech development skills, subject matter experts in a large number of areas and support services for law department clients, including process and design experts. These are critical to redefining how legal services are delivered.
What was the impetus behind starting Valorem Law?
Valorem was founded in 2008 with the goal of doing complex commercial litigation using non-hourly fees and letting clients be the ultimate judge of value. We were committed to a true client-first means of doing business, and every aspect of the firm, including lawyer compensation, was designed with this client-first focus. As client needs have evolved, we have continued to innovate and attempt to keep a step or twenty ahead of where the market is going. That desire to keep ahead of the market, the same desire that led to Valorem’s creation in 2008 caused us to push forward to the next step, ElevateNext, in 2018.
What has been the biggest lesson you have learned about the practice of law?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that law is a service business, a solutions business. If you are not solving your client’s problems—and I am deliberately not saying “legal problems,” –you are not accomplishing the inherent purpose of being a lawyer. For us, the client is a corporation, generally large or mid-sized, and the problems the company’s law department deals with are just business problems that the business operations people need help to address. The delivery of a solution can be everything from handling a lawsuit (a problem that went south) to working with the operations people to redesign how business transactions are done to reduce the risk of a breakdown. The greater the range of perspectives brought to the analysis of a problem and design of a solution, the better the solution will be.
What is your take on the use of metrics to measure performance? What do you say to those who push back on using metrics and say how can you measure legal work?
Metrics matter. The key is what you measure. I am uninterested in how many 6-minute increments it takes to accomplish something. I am interested in output per meaningful unit of measurement, however, as part of a process to design systems or technology that yield a meaningfully greater output per meaningful unit of measurement. Like virtually everything else in law, we get hung up on issues that real businesses dealt with decades ago. Applying business practices and associated metrics that have been tried and proven is the key to doing what we do better, faster and cheaper.
What are your thoughts on the billable hour? Will we always have it?
In all likelihood, yes, but nowhere to the degree we have now. There will always be some large law firms, but they will handle the occasional, massive issues that truly require the army they can deploy and where cost is no object. Those are the firms most successful now and they have the least incentive to change. But law firms like ElevateNext, working in tandem with law companies like Elevate Services, can design service delivery solutions and deploy technology that enables these firm to accomplish solutions much more, more effectively, at a far lower cost than traditional law firms can achieve. Think about the auto industry in the 1960s and 70s versus today. Then, the Big 3 dominated the landscape and companies like Toyota and Honda were looked at derisively. But the foreign entrants took over the small car part of the market and then competed for larger cars, and then launched luxury car entrants. Two of the Big 3 went through bankruptcy to survive, and Chrysler became a shadow of itself before being bought by Fiat. Law Companies with aligned NewLaw firms like ElevateNext will disrupt the legal market in much the same way. But like Ford, the billable hour will continue but with a much different competitive landscape.