Not Yet At The Tipping Point

Much of what I am about to say is likely well-known by readers of this blog. However, having read it before does not make the information any less salient. The legal profession has long been one that has adhered to seemingly rigid rules, processes, and practices. As this blog and many others have noted, this is becoming no longer the case. New technologies, new processes, and new players have entered the field. These new players include ones offering legal analytic services to those offering bespoke solution development services. Moreover, the number of types of legal jobs has increased as well, if you know where to look. Legal departments have often been at the forefront of these changes due in part to their closeness to the business and because of their historic reputation as a cost center.

The factors driving change within the legal industry include technological advancements, clients demanding more from their legal resources, and the increasing use of data to drive decision-making. All of these factors have resulted in legal departments needing to provide more comprehensive advice and support encompassing far more than just legal advice. Subsequently the lawyers within those departments must have within their toolbox not just legal skills, but business skills, process improvement skills and improved communication skills. 

The book Tipping Point: Transformation and Innovation in the Legal Department is intended to serve as a guide to navigating the world that the modern-day legal department exists within now. While the book may be brief (a mere 100 pages), it contains a wealth of knowledge provided by a number of legal leaders including Aaron Katzel, Peggy Chang Barber, and Dr. Silvia Hodges Silverstein to name but a few. Chapters cover topics including legal analytics, agile methodology, and legal operations. All of these topics are both quite relevant as well as beneficial to those seeking to transform their law department or perhaps another’s law department from a cost-center to a value-add center.

The volume features chapters that cover both subjects that are part and parcel of a law department, but also those that are critical, but not always given the attention that they deserve. What are these topics? They include things like managing the inside counsel/outside counsel relationship, communicating with the C-suite, and working with procurement. The theme underlying all of these topics is relationships. Those working within a legal department must not just manage themselves, but their relationships with others ranging from sales personnel to key stakeholders. This is not always an easy task, but it is a critical one. The editor of the book was smart to include content directly addressing this. The most demanding part of being a lawyer within a legal department isn’t always the legal work, it is what I call the people work.

Legal technology and legal innovation are terms that are bandied about for marketing purposes, sometimes with abandon. However, both terms maintain their importance as both are also broad terms that each encompass a range of important topics for lawyers to have knowledge of. Ark Group should be commended for putting together a concise, yet comprehensive guide to some the key trends, skills, and subjects impacting how a legal department is run and what skills are necessary to have an effective department. I do have two quibbles with the book. One is its high price. While presumably aimed for law departments to purchase using their budget, it is challenging in my mind to justify paying around $189 for a book of a mere 100 pages. Yet, if you can do it, I do recommend the book as a one that would be helpful for a lawyer of any level to understanding what it means to transform a legal department in today’s day and age. My second is with the title. While some may wish to think that we are at a tipping point when it comes to transforming the practice of law, my view is we are not there yet. Change is afoot, yes, but much more work remains to be done. I encourage you to join me in helping to do this work.