The legal ecosystem is undergoing a massive transformation around the world, prompting some legal professionals to wonder if the industry is in a crisis. Others, though, argue that the legal community can start to fix problems within the industry by first recognizing them. As a prelude to Beyond Our Borders, a two-day summit on global legal innovation, host Daniel Rodriguez talks to Mark Cohen, the CEO of LegalMosaic, and Eva Bruch, Founder of AlterWork, about what’s broken within the legal industry around the world. Topics include the access to justice crisis, outdated performance metrics, and the rise of alternative business structures. They also discuss addressing these problems at the source by developing business management, technology, culture, and people skills at law schools.
Planet Lex: The Northwestern Pritzker School of Law Podcast
Facing the Challenges of the Global Legal Industry
Intro: Welcome to Planet Lex: The Podcast of Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, with your host Dean Daniel B. Rodriguez, bringing it to you from Chicago, Illinois. Take it away Dan.
Daniel B. Rodriguez: Hello and welcome to Northwestern Law’s Planet Lex, podcasting from the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law in Chicago, Illinois. I am your host Dean Dan Rodriguez.
My guests today are Mark Cohen and Eva Bruch, two global thought leaders in the legal industry, to talk with us about the new global legal ecosystem.
Mark is presently the Chair of the Advisory Board and Chief Strategy Officer at Elevate, a company that provides consulting, technology and services to law departments and law firms. He is also a Distinguished Fellow here at Northwestern Law School as part of our Center for Practice Engagement and Innovation.
He is a regular contributor to Forbes and the CEO of Legal Mosaic, a legal business consultancy and repository for his work. His Legal Mosaic blog was recently honored by the ABA as one of the 50 outstanding worldwide legal blogs in their inaugural Web 100.
Mark is based in Washington DC.
Eva Bruch is a partner at AlterWork, a Barcelona-based consulting company focused on innovation and digital transformation for the legal industry. She has worked as a lawyer at several law firms and as a business development manager at a legal process outsourcing company. She teaches strategic marketing and law firm management in her native Spain and is considered one of the foremost experts on future trends in the legal industry.
Thank you both for being here.
So let me start with the colloquial expression, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it and ask the question that both of you hopefully can elaborate on is, what is broken in the legal industry?
Mark Cohen: Well Dan, I guess I have to ask how much time do we have here?
Daniel B. Rodriguez: That’s a big question. I assure you, we will come down from 20,000 feet, so maybe the question is too glib, so I would sharpen it only this way, both of you are actively involved in solving problems, in problem solving and addressing issues and in some cases, judging from certainly your written work and your advocacy, things that are broken in the legal ecosystem.
But we always begin, right, by asking essentially if we are in a period of crisis or if we are in a particular period of problem that justifies some of the shall I say more radical recommendations that both of you had made about the legal ecosystem. So from the kind of vantage point of 20,000 feet, can you say a little bit about what are our crises, if any, in the legal industry?
Eva Bruch: Well, one of the things or the main things I think that should be changed in the legal ecosystem is how law firms, they deliver services to their clients, putting the clients in the center of this relationship. I think that the client has been for so long out of the center of this relationship. The law firms were more focused on themselves and how to — in selling hours, I would say, instead of really carrying on changing the way they relate to their clients.
So this is changing now. Client is expecting or client is demanding other things and apart from the price crisis, there is something else that the client is demanding, which is to be more caring about their businesses and they are demanding their law firms or their lawyers to really understand their business and what they are seeking is for something like a business partner, not just somebody able to or capable to write tough reports to them.
Daniel B. Rodriguez: Can I ask a question. I know we would all agree that it wasn’t like as it were we woke up one morning, we being the law firms and lawyers and said, oh, the clients are now at the center. What was the impetus for this big change, as you put it, from lawyers being at the center and law firms being at the center of clients being at the center? Was there an episode, was there something that happened in society, something that happened to our economic system, can you locate sort of the time in which that started to change?
Eva Bruch: I think that was a combination of several factors. One was the economic crisis, this is one of the big factors, but along with the changing environment, the speed of the technology, how the technology is evolving, those two things combined were really the two catalysts that make this relationship change or make the client ask for a change in this kind of relationship.
I don’t know if you would like to add something, Mark.
Mark Cohen: Well, I think you have definitely hit on two points. I think another thing is globalization and the fact that as business becomes more global and regulatory challenges become more profound and the speed of business accelerates, I think that the legal profession has really not kept up with the speed of business.
I would also add Dan that laws, and I agree totally with Eva about the global financial crisis and the accelerated, both adaptation as well as speed of change in technology, I would also add that you look at what’s happened in terms of buyer expectations and whether it’s Uber that provides buyers with easier opportunity to acquire the services they want, when they want them, and with the different kinds of touch points that they want them.
In other words, if I want to just save money and get from point A to point B, I will take an uberPOOL. If I am taking my wife out to a black-tie affair and she is wearing high heels and doesn’t want to walk to the entrance, I am going to take an UberBLACK.
I think that lawyers have to understand that different matters and different tasks have different values to clients. Lawyers have always sort of dictated the value and it’s always been a very monolithic kind of dictation; that is, they deserve the absolute very best, we have to turn over every rock. And now clients I think are taking a much more businesslike approach and saying, we don’t always need to have the Sistine Chapel ceiling of legal briefs.
Daniel B. Rodriguez: One of the memorable phrases that our friend Richard Susskind from the UK uses to describe that phenomenon is the move away from bespoke legal services, right, using the sort of tailoring analogy to something that’s more appropriate.
But I want to push back to both of you and ask this question, and it’s interesting you use the example of Uber. Uber and Lyft and the sharing economy responds to the faults in the previous system, that being taxi cabs, a highly monopoly regulated industry. Airbnb emerges because of the difficulties that travelers have in dealing with hotels and other examples as well. But there have always been a bunch of law firms around and Lord knows there’s always been a bunch of lawyers.
So Eva, let me ask you, why wasn’t it the case for the 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, 50 years before the financial crisis that the response to adaptation of clients, different kinds of legal services were 20, 30, 40 different models of law firms? If Cravath, Swaine & Moore was not prepared given the way they billed for services and the way they had lawyers provide respond to certain clients’ needs, then why didn’t another firm come up with a whole different model to adapt to clients’ needs?
Eva Bruch: Well, I think there are some factors related to this phenomenon. One of these factors is the reality and this is — I like to say this, because maybe lawyers should not be blamed that much, because it was not so long ago that lawyers were permitted to create companies to deliver little services, though they had absolutely no experience in managing a company.
They could not have non-lawyers on the management — on the board, that was prohibited.
Daniel B. Rodriguez: Because of — just to make sure that our listeners understand, because of a regime of professional regulation that limited the ability, as I understand it, of lawyers to engage with non-lawyers on those services.
Eva Bruch: Exactly. So all of a sudden lawyers are permitted to create companies. Well, this is kind of different in Spain and in the United States, because in the States non-lawyers cannot be shareholders of a law firm and they cannot be part of the Board of Directors. In Spain, this is kind of different. Some years ago they were allowed, non-lawyers were allowed to be shareholders of a law firm, up to 49% only.
Daniel B. Rodriguez: That’s a lot.
Eva Bruch: That’s quite a lot, yeah, and they can be part of the Board of Directors as a limited person as well.
Something I see in law firms, in some Spanish law firms, when they have a non-lawyer on the Board of Directors, but being part of the Board of Directors and being a shareholder is that the typical situation in which this person is only responsible for running the company, for running the law firm, and he is not directly, he or she is not directly involved in the delivery of legal services, those law firms, they have more rapid growth than other law firms. And this combined with the technology and the possibilities and the Internet and the World Wide Web, the mixture it created, it permits the law firms to — these innovative law firms to create some other business models.
But this was not possible before and I think that lawyers felt very comfortable with a business model that was working, that grant them a lot of money, and so why change.
Daniel B. Rodriguez: If I understand you right, I am sure that when you say lawyers are not at fault, to some degree this is as you say the product of the landscape of professional regulation that didn’t give them the opportunity to innovate. But the last thing you said is interesting, which is they were comfortable, that is the lawyers were comfortable in this environment.
Let’s be clear about professional regulation. This doesn’t come from the head of Zeus or from the sky, it’s the product of choices made by lawyers, right, to protect the interest of lawyers.
Eva Bruch: Yes, yes.
Daniel B. Rodriguez: So maybe you are too kind, they are not at fault. Mark?
Mark Cohen: I would describe fault for the very reason you cite Dan, that it is a self-regulated industry, it still is in the States, notwithstanding the fact that both of you know, in other jurisdictions, in Australia, going back to the early part of the new millennium, in the UK with the Legal Services Act of 2007, there has been a re-regulation of the profession. And I think going back to some other questions, Dan, in terms of the performance and we didn’t wake up one day, absolutely we didn’t, it’s just that we started to focus on other things.
For example, there wasn’t as much talk about the access to justice crisis, but I don’t see how we as a profession can defend the fact that 80% plus of our individuals in this country and small businesses simply cannot afford legal representation even when for them it’s a bet the company type case that’s involved. We’re not, I think, honoring our social compact with society.
The other thing I think is that law firms, let’s be honest, until the last 20 or so years were the only game in town. There has I think been a steady migration of work away from firms to in-house corporate legal departments in part because there was a dissatisfaction and frustration with what law firms were not delivering.
I think that dissatisfaction has definitely increased. As Eva said, the technology allows for more and better and faster kind of adaptations and deployments of delivering legal services. I think those are all factors that have to go into the mix, and just one more thing, with respect to the stats, it seems that ever since Steve Brill in 1987 came out with the then AM Law 200 results, which was just sort of a testament to the ego of managing partners and their colleagues, measuring all sorts of financial metrics of the success of the firms conspicuously absent of course, was any kind of metric related to customer satisfaction or Net Promoter Score.
Daniel B Rodriguez: You say, all sorts of factors, but as you have written that like a laser beamed, what is moving the needle, if I can mix that metaphor — is profits per partner. So, that is, as I understand at those ranks I know a heck of a lot more about law school rankings than law firm rankings, but from what you and others have written that metric of profits per partner has driven —
Mark Cohen: Absolutely. That is the green light that all law firms are swimming towards, and it’s sort of paradoxical, because on the one hand the higher the PPP, the better the opportunity for a firm to be able to coach coveted lateral partners or to get the best and the brightest coming out of law schools, like Northwestern, but at the same time at what cost is PPP achieved.
And I don’t think that there’s necessarily a correlation between PPP for many firms and client satisfaction, and I would just cite a recent Cambridge University survey that found when asking 200 general counsel of large companies, what percent of you would actually recommend your go-to firm, not just any old panel counsel much less a firm that may have just a couple odd matters, but the firm that when things hit the fan you’re going to call and 75% of them decline to give a positive grade to their go-to firms. Only 25% would give a positive net promoter score, that should tell us something.
Daniel B Rodriguez: Well, let me ask, I’m sympathetic to that, so I’ll call this a devil’s advocate question.
Mark Cohen: Please.
Daniel B Rodriguez: I want to ask you both about the American law firms but about international firms, maybe that’s finding good in terms of a survey, but Kirkland and Latham, to take just those two firms in particular with all the bells and whistles that befits publicity, crack the three billion dollar level, many, many other firms that are at the high end of the echelon aren’t wanting for business, that is, their clients are returning again and again and again certainly embed the company litigation, but also transactional work, which is both of you have pointed out is available at lower price, not only from competitive law firms and competitive market, but also in in-house.
So, I’m not thinking of one company in particular, but the ratio of legal spend, as an aggregate, has gone down; but again, Kirkland and Latham and other firms are making money hand over fist.
Mark Cohen: So, let me push back a little bit, respectfully and gently on your pushback, there’s no question about it. The numbers are not lying. I think there are now something like 16 different law firms whose revenues in the aggregate are over a billion dollars where only a few years ago that number was a fraction.
And I think what we’re seeing is a couple of things. One is, we’re seeing a stratification of firms. The rich are getting richer and the other ones are I think starting to feel the pressure.
Daniel B Rodriguez: 16 is not a large number, it’s an enormous amount in terms of revenue, but as a percentage of all the law firms internationally it’s not a lot large counter.
Mark Cohen: Correct. And so, it would be like saying that, well, Northwestern and Harvard, Yale and Stanford aren’t necessarily feeling the pinch of maybe fewer quality students and things, but I think a lot of other law schools are.
Daniel B Rodriguez: But I think the other thing that I think is that it used to be that you’d send all of your work to one firm or to another firm. Now what you’ve got is you’ve got segmentation, not only in terms of types of practice areas, but indeed types of tasks.
It used to be in a sort of a monolithic concept that you send everything to a particular firm and they do everything, start to finish, including the Xeroxing, for which they charged a very handsome up charge.
Today, I think you are seeing that different types of matters, labor and employment might go to one firm whereas antitrust might go to another. And even within those different practice areas what you’re beginning to see is that different tasks within the completion of those matters are going to different types of providers.
And I think what we’re seeing now, more than ever before, is a collaboration and the real creation of a legal supply chain, something that’s very, very new and I think something that law firms are really going to have to pay close attention to.
Eva, can I pivot to the situation in Europe, Spain and Europe, generally, a couple of questions that grew out of some of the comments that Mark made. Let me first ask you about prestige. How in Spain and elsewhere in Europe are law firm’s performance measured? How do you weigh and evaluate the prestige and the success of different law firms?
Eva Bruch: Exactly, by the same KPIs, the PPP is exactly the same, in fact we’ve got a ranking that runs every — every year in Spain, and the metric is exactly this? For PPP, for Partner, so Profit Per Partner.
Daniel B Rodriguez: And you take a country like Spain that has — I don’t know much about it but I suspect that in the business sector, in the litigation sector has work that grows out of Spanish law, but in the European Union context work that grows out of law that is more European, and not to mention work that is truly transnational. Mark mentioned the globalization of law generally.
How have in your country, the Spanish law firms, adapted to that? And it might be a little more precise, how have the leading Spanish indigenous Spanish law firms been effective in competing with these what we call in the United States “carpetbagger lawfirms”, law firms coming in from other European countries, law firms coming in from the United States?
Eva Bruch: Well, they had to adopt themselves, they had to grew and they had to globalize their practices, major law firms – major national law firms in Spain now they have offices nearly all around the world and if they don’t — in some places, that they do not have a physical presence, they just have agreements with other law firms in South America, for example, or other parts of the world, just to show that they have a global true presence and that they are able to accompany their clients within all their operations no matter how big they are, how complex or diverse, and affecting different jurisdictions they are.
So, this is something they are really doing, really well, they are very aware, because there’s another factor here because the International big brands, all of them have a presence in Spain, so they are really competing in our country. So, we’ve got the big national brands along with the big international brands in one, only one jurisdiction.
I would say that Spanish clients or Spanish companies they like to work with a national firm rather than an international one because of culture, language and things like this, they feel more comfortable speaking in Spanish with their lawyers, so that they understand the environment, economic environment, and this is something that as well help them to just protect themselves from this kind of competition but competition does exist and they are doing things like globalization and innovation as well. They are trying to innovate, do things different and to try to give a value proposition to their clients.
Daniel B Rodriguez: Has Brexit impacted in any way? Do you anticipate in any way the scope of legal work and the nature of legal work in Europe?
Eva Bruch: Well, just when Brexit occurred, a lot of law firms, they opened a niche practice which was assessing the effects of the Brexit, so there is something that was really quick and very clever frames, very smart frames, they just hurry up and held their clients with this, and yes, it is an issue, it was an issue and it is in issue and it will continue to be an issue during the next years I think.
Daniel B Rodriguez: Let me come back to an issue that Mark raised in connection with US law which is the access to justice crisis and that figure 80% of individual, this mismatch, profound mismatch between individuals of legal needs and the availability of lawyers. How does that play out in Europe or I should say, in other parts of the world besides the United States? Is the access to justice crisis something uniquely American?
Eva Bruch: No, absolutely not. Not at all and in fact I teach in some law schools in Spain when a lawyer in Spain finishes the Law degree they have to go through a master practice to be able to enter the profession. and only in this period is when they have some teaching about or learn about a law firm management and things like that. So, I teach these matters to them, and something that I always explain to them is that, well, in Spain the access to justice crisis began, I would say something like ten years ago and some law firms, some local law firms came up with some innovative business models. I would say Legalitas, for example, or more recently areas of the others. Those two examples of law firms, they attend only particulars for a fraction of the cost that a normal law firm would have.
Daniel B Rodriguez: Are they subsidized to any degree by the national government?
Eva Bruch: Not at all. Absolutely private practices, and those students, and this is why I was mentioning the students. When I explain these business models to business students most of the times I say, well, the fees that they are charging are very low and this is not fair because we should charge more, because the profession is something, well, they are —
Daniel B Rodriguez: Words need to make a living, right?
Eva Bruch: Yeah, exactly, but look, they are having this matter for this person for this small phase, would you as a lawyer take that matter as a lawyer and they say, well, no, of course because fee is too low. So, well, they come up with a solution, they streamline that processes they are able to attend these people that otherwise would not be able to go to a lawyer, so they have a service now, and the company, the law firm is making a business out of it and a really nice business, right. Show them the figures of these law firms and then they say, wow, this is amazing.
Daniel B Rodriguez: And this is work just as if you broadened the reaction of the students, oh, I wouldn’t do this work because it’s not lucrative enough. I take it that that would be true of the law firm, there’s no interest on the big law firms in taking on that kind of work?
Eva Bruch: Not at all, not at all, and there’s this another reality. All those people who are not clients will never ever be clients of this bigger law firm, so no damage on this, it’s only benefit for people that had not access to justice, now they do have an option and there’s people making a business out of it, which is fair as well.
Daniel B Rodriguez: I want to shift back to Mark and ask the slippery slope as we say and say, if you take that situation in the American context of opportunities that are there and right for client service at a price point that most law firms and most lawyers won’t take, it comes right smack back to your point which is the availability in the provision of legal services by folks who are not credential to become lawyers, so that’s in many respects the third rail, right? Do you see room and an area for innovation in non lawyers providing legal services?
Mark Cohen: Absolutely, I do, and I would say, medicine as an example, I mean, it used to be 20 years ago you’d go in for your annual physical and except maybe for having your blood drawn, and I remember the first time that I had someone other than the doctor draw my blood and I said to her why aren’t you doing it and she said, oh, because the full-bottom is does it much better than I do. She does it a hundred times a day, you’ll be happy that she’s drawing your blood.
And, I don’t think, fast forward to today, your doctor is only with you at the beginning of your annual physical then you have a whole litany of paraprofessionals and machines they’re acquiring data. The doctor then assimilates that data and then spends the final time with you relating that data to your particular matter. I don’t think that law should be any different. I think there’s a great opportunity for us to use paraprofessionals, other professionals and machines with some lawyer touch as appropriate to drastically reduce the cost and improve the efficiency of the delivery of legal services.
So, really Dan, I see this as the golden age of the legal entrepreneur. I think there’s a great opportunity for young people to do well and do good by focusing on the grossly underserved retail. I’ll call.it market of individuals and small businesses even midsize businesses, you look at LegalZoom as an example, they satisfactorily served over 4 million customers and 1 million small businesses, and by the way, their Net Promoter Score is about 90%. So, they’re obviously doing it right.
Daniel Rodriguez: Probably they’ve caused a bit of a pushback certainly in some states of the United States. I don’t know whether this is true in Europe. Through unauthorized practice of law, lawsuits, and the like, so you wonder whether LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyes and others have will become victims of their own success.
Mark Cohen: Well, they have won every single suit, point one; and point two, as you well know as being much more of a legal scholar, then I will ever hope to be, you’ve got the North Carolina Dental case, I think that there is — and also I think it’s like Uber. I think we’re getting to the point where companies like LegalZoom are too big and frankly too popular to fail.
And I think that if the regulators were to really try to get into sort of a — put LegalZoom or others like Rocket Lawyer into a death vise, I think it might be sort of a reversal and I think it might be the regulators that might be in big, big trouble.
Just one other thing, on the corporate side of the market Dan, and obviously the numbers that you cite in terms of the fantastic money being made by the top corporate law firms, absolutely, that’s just — it is what it is. However, I think one of the things that’s really going to change the dynamic in our industry, particularly on the corporate side, is that lawyers always sold to lawyers. And many of those decisions were driven by what I would call relationships.
Now, relationships will always play a role, but I think they will play a role in different ways. It’s not just that you went to the same school, belong to the same golf club, etc, etc, but I think today what you are seeing is with the entry of procurement into the buying process, the dynamic has changed and it’s now no longer lawyers selling exclusively to lawyers. In fact, sometimes you have legal service companies, which are non-lawyers selling to procurement who are also non-lawyers.
I think we have to realize that our profession is part of an industry. We are certainly a profession and will continue to be, but we have also become part of an industry, much the same way medicine is now part of the healthcare industry.
Daniel B. Rodriguez: So Eva, in our time remaining I want to shift our focus and ask both of you, first you if I may, to reflect on what you would advise the law schools and also mentor lawyers to do in terms of training students and educating students with new kinds of skills. What kind of skills should we be developing in the students coming through our law schools, in the US, and Europe, and Spain and elsewhere?
Eva Bruch: That’s a very interesting question. I think that the law schools should open the kind of skills that they are actually training. It would be a mix of technical skills of course because they are lawyers and we need to practice law, but I will add some business skills and some management skills as well, as well as technology.
The use of technology, I cannot imagine an architect coming out of the university without knowing how to manage the AutoCAD. So they finish knowing how to manage it. There is no other way. So it should be the same for law. You should finish your law degree knowing which are the tools that you will have to manage and to manage them properly.
So there are three kinds of skills and I know that Mark is going to bring a very good example of a European University doing this very, very well.
Daniel B. Rodriguez: Yes, please.
Mark Cohen: Well, I think Eva gave a great answer and I would just simply say that I would probably on day one in orientation commit every incoming student at a law school to look at the CLOC website, the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium.
Daniel B. Rodriguez: So easier when we just call it CLOC.
Mark Cohen: It’s a whole lot easier. But I think that there is a page and a diagram on their website that talks about the 12 interlocking competencies that comprise legal operations. I am not saying that one has to necessarily be practiced in all of them, but I think that some sort of an understanding of how they interconnect and how they now are integrated with practice skills that used to be the be-all and end-all of being a lawyer is important.
And I think also, I will go back to basics, Eva mentioned culture, I think that culture is the most overlooked element of change that is going on in our profession, in our industry. Let’s be honest, law used to be about white men for white men and we were not in any way a diverse kind of a profession, we were very insular. We have zealously guarded sort of the guild aspects of the profession.
Daniel B. Rodriguez: The white-shoe as we say in the profession.
Mark Cohen: Yes, yes, literally and figuratively. And I think that we are living in different times and clients are now beginning to demand, as I think they have an absolute right to as buyers that we can’t tell you how to practice business or what your culture should be, but if you want to work with us, we expect certain things. We expect cultural compatibility.
So I think that legal culture is changing in a number of ways and I think that culture is not just a box checking exercise to see that we have got different types of people in terms of age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, but it really is a kind of a commitment to what kind of a community do we want to have. And I think that’s got to come from the top-down, whether it’s at a law school, a law firm, an in-house legal department.
And then finally I would say that paradoxically to Eva’s point about technology, which I completely agree with, I don’t think that students necessarily have to be computer coders, it would be great if they had that background before law school for sure, but I do think that paradoxically as we become more and more reliant on technology, as technology becomes kind of a constant collaborator to what lawyers do, we have to start refining our people’s skills.
I think that we, for too long, whether law firms just want to hire the law review editors and things or law schools want to get the kids who have the highest test scores and grades, let’s face it, law is still the business of persuasion and that requires people skills. You have to be able to sit across the table from any kind of number of different people and relate to them. And I think that’s something that we have fundamentally undervalued as a profession and I would like to see it come back.
Daniel B. Rodriguez: Eva mentioned that you had some examples or maybe examples of schools.
Mark Cohen: Sure. Well, I am happy to say Dan that at the Great International Conference we are having here at Northwestern the next two days the head of that school, Markus Hartung of Bucerius in Germany, I think they are a model for what a law school could and perhaps should be going forward.
If you look at their curriculum, it’s one-third traditional legal training, one-third technology, particularly as it relates to the delivery of legal services, and one-third business, particularly as it relates to the delivery of legal services. I think that graduates there, they are knocking the cover off of the ball in the marketplace. I think that’s a model that’s worthy of closer scrutiny by American law schools.
And just a plug for Eva’s country, I had the privilege of going to IE Law School in Madrid, I know you are very well acquainted and Northwestern has a partnership, a shout out to IE, who also I think is very progressive, as is Northwestern, in terms of just looking beyond the sort of business as usual of a legal education. So those are some thoughts.
Daniel B. Rodriguez: Maybe time for one more question. I am struck when you said culture, and both of you have talked about culture. One of the values that we and many other law schools too, including the ones you mentioned, try hard to inculcate in our students and I am curious how valuable you see this, both of you see this, is what is often called entrepreneurial mindset.
We are in a profession, in the legal profession that is backward-looking, is in many respects intrinsically conservative. We are the ones, lawyers, who tell clients what they cannot do, who tell entrepreneurs who are anxious to bring a new invention to market, not so fast, slow down, there is too much risk, this is a bit of a caricature, but it’s really something that’s embedded in the study of law in many respects that generates the practice of law in these regards.
So we work hard in trying to, we in the profession are starting to work hard I should put it in a more balanced way, to really develop an entrepreneurial culture on the part of our students.
I guess a two-part question is, is that a valuable task and venture, and if so, how do we do that in law schools and also in the early days of the profession? I don’t want to give a monologue, but I would say the other side of the coin is, you are darn right, we are backward looking, and conservative, and cautious and risk preferring because we are the checks that keep these crazy inventors and entrepreneurs from getting ahead of their —
Eva Bruch: Not crazy at all, absolutely not. It’s really, really necessary to have these skills embedded into our students, because in fact being an entrepreneur is the basis for being innovative, to innovate in a law firm.
With my company, we help law firms to innovate and generate new ideas. This is what we — first we go to them and we explain, which are the ways that they can be intrapreneurs, inside their own law firms. Because, well, you can be an entrepreneur outside the law firm and start your own business or you can be an intrapreneur and help the law firm that you are working for to create new services, to redesign services, to do new things, to do things in a different way.
And this is possible as well. And this is the thing that all law firms should be looking for to have these young lawyers and let them just explore and do things and think differently and if a law school gives those skills to the students, they will be more prepared to do this.
So it’s a win-win situation, entrepreneur and intrapreneur and I think law schools have a key role in this as well. So congrats if you do this, because it’s really, really interesting.
Mark Cohen: I would say that not everybody in the world is meant to be an entrepreneur or even an intrapreneur. I happen to think that it’s probably something you are born with. It can be honed perhaps, but I think it’s just very much kind of a character trait.
Having said that, I think that it’s incumbent upon law schools to encourage people to think beyond traditional legal careers and to consider that there are going to be many different avenues that can be pursued and being a lawyer doesn’t mean just being at a law firm.
I think to be blunt, one of the problems that we have here in America, and I know Dan, you are acutely aware of this is the high cost of legal education and the fact that it puts a considerable financial burden on someone. So before one can even get started, one typically has to try to get a good paying job to be able to help pay off the debt.
Having said all of that, I don’t think that one who is fundamentally an entrepreneur is ever going to be discouraged from doing it. I know that from personal experience. And so I think that it’s great that a law school, any law school can sort of encourage people to look beyond just the usual suspect careers, because as we all know in this room, many of those careers will continue, but the numbers won’t be there for as many people to be doing what they have historically been doing.
But the flip side of it is that there are going to be many new possibilities when you Dan or I, when we were law students, there were a finite number of opportunities that we had, whereas today, I think there are many more. I find that to be very exciting and I think that the more a law school can start to prepare students for those various options, I think the better they are serving both the profession, the marketplace and the students.
Daniel B Rodriguez: Let me ask you one last question and that’s about measurement. These suggestions and reforms, the advice you give as part of your consultancies, both of you, recommendations, all of that, what’s the answer to the question, how would we know taking the profession generally in one year, in five years, in ten years whether we have made some real change of the kinds you would know? What evidence would we look to, to know that we have really made a substantial impact in reforming the business of lawyering and legal services in the world?
Eva Bruch: I think that you need to measure what you are doing and this is a reality. You need to decide what you are going to do, how you are going to measure it, and after some months or every year you have to measure which are the results.
For example, if you decide, well, I am going to create a new practice or two or three new niche practices, you have to measure, did we do it, how many clients do we have, how many money are we making out of it, are the clients satisfied with this?
You can always use other metrics, like for example, the Net Promoter Score that Mark was mentioning before. Are our clients satisfied with our services? If we pretend or we are trying to do things to change the way that we deliver services, because we want to make our clients happier or feel more comfortable with us, that we have got to measure this. We cannot just say, well, we think that they are more happy. No, no, this is something that we really have to measure, we need the numbers, we need the figures, and as a matter of fact it’s just saying, well, are we doing well or are we not doing well, it is a thing of measuring.
Daniel B. Rodriguez: Thank you. Mark.
Mark Cohen: I think that lawyers have typically, even today, if you ask most law firms, are you doing a great job for your client, probably the vast majority of people will say, you bet we are. You ask their clients how are these guys doing, the answer is probably going to be very different.
I think we really have to look at things as a profession and as an industry more through the prism, not of our own perspective, but those we are serving. And I purposely use the term serve because I think we are a part of what a profession does is to serve, right? We have a certain obligations, not just to maximize PPP, but to serve, to serve effectively and to serve well and to serve across a wide swath of the population.
So I think we have to as a profession start looking things more through the prism of who we serve than our own interests and perceptions of how we are doing. I think that’s really, really important.
And to Eva’s point, I think that we really have to do a better job as a profession and as an industry of tackling our wicked problems, and I would say in no particular order the access to justice crisis is clearly a wicked problem. I think we have to also deal with the tepid response that most clients have towards how effectively we are servicing them.
I think we have to be open to new possibilities and new combinations and that’s going to require sort of an open mindedness and I think you can’t know where you are going if you don’t know where you are.
So just coming back to one of your earlier questions Dan, I think that it would be very helpful for law schools to give the incoming students some better understanding of what’s going on in the marketplace that they are training to enter. I think that’s going to require frankly a very hard look in the existential mirror and I realize that change is not easy, but it’s going to require people to say, well, it’s just not quite the same as it was even five or ten years ago, we have to start making some changes.
And this is not to say that we just throw everything out the window, but it’s — I know you are a sports fans, so am I, when you are a coach and you are going into the locker room at halftime and you are down by two touchdowns, are you going to continue to do the same thing or are you going to look at what’s going well and what perhaps needs to be changed.
I think we have to be coaches that way and we are getting a report card that is saying that the score is not terribly favorable. Yes, there are lawyers making lots of money, but that’s a very, very small percentage and I think we have to do a better job as a profession to make sure that the whole notion of being a lawyer is no longer the butt for a thousand jokes.
Daniel B. Rodriguez: Also, speaking as a legal educator, what we are doing in, and you talk about at orientation, at the beginning of our time as in meeting with the students, we are walking that line between giving them the real picture, as you say the reality of the marketplace and the way things have changed, while at the same time giving them the confidence that I know all three of us would agree that law is a wonderful profession. Future is a bright future. It’s not giving them a story of the dismal future that they are entering in.
Mark Cohen: You know Dan, it’s so easy to be a boo-bird, but I think it’s much more important to say these are things that we need to improve on and here are some suggestions for how we may do it.
As you know, I am a great optimist. I am very excited about the future and I think that it’s a great time actually to go into the profession, provided that one is going to acquire some of the new tools and skills that Eva mentioned and that we are really going to have a sense that it’s a time of great possibility for those who are prepared.
Daniel B. Rodriguez: Thank you very much. We are out of time. By the time our listeners hear this podcast, we will have concluded the summit that is coming up over the next two days here at Northwestern Law School, called Beyond our Borders, a Global Legal Summit, but thanks to technology that will be available, it will be live streamed and it will be available for our listeners to check out.
So even in advance of this conference, I want to put a plug in for this meeting of global leaders, including the two of you, who will be here along with others to talk about, candidly, about what’s going on in the global legal marketplace.
Well, that’s all for today. I want to thank both of you, Mark Cohen and Eva Bruch for being part of this just fascinating discussion. I wish we had more time.
That’s our show for today. Thank you for joining me and thanks for listening. I am Dan Rodriguez, signing off from the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law.
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