Increasing The Efficiency of Lawyers

I have 2,143 lawyer jokes queued up.  Here’s a good one:

The devil visited a lawyer’s office and made him an offer. "I can arrange some things for you, " the devil said. "I’ll increase your income five-fold. Your partners will love you; your clients will respect you; you’ll have four months of vacation each year and live to be a hundred. All I require in return is that your wife’s soul, your children’s souls, and their children’s souls rot in hell for eternity."  The lawyer thought for a moment. "What’s the catch?" he asked.

Now some of my good friends are lawyers and several of my very best friends are ex-lawyers.  You probably know one of them – my partner at Foundry Group – Jason Mendelson.  When Jason started his blog, he made the wise choice of starting a series titled Law Firm 2.0.  His first post – Why Start-up Lawyers Frustrate Me – pissed off all of his lawyer friends, generated 54 comments, and was reprinted all over the place.  Not a bad start for a blog.

He continued posting about Law Firm 2.0.  One day he was approached by some interesting folks at a company called FirstDocs who shared a lot of similar ideas.  You can read about it more in Jason’s post Our Investment in Law Firm 2.0The outcome, as you might expect, is that we closed an investment in FirstDocs at the end of last year.

Now, we usually do not invest in companies aimed at vertical markets.  However, we make exceptions when we have extremely deep domain knowledge and expertise.  In addition, we view having past success as a bonus, such as our previous experience in the legal vertical market with Stratify (which Iron Mountain acquired in 2007.) 

A lawyer died and arrived at the pearly gates. To his dismay, there were thousands of people ahead of him in line to see St. Peter. But, to his surprise, St. Peter left his desk at the gate and came down the long line to where the lawyer was standing. St. Peter greeted him warmly. Then St. Peter and one of his assistants took the lawyer by the hands and guided him up to the front of the line into a comfortable chair by his desk. The lawyer said, "I don’t mind all this attention, but what makes me so special?" St. Peter replied, "Well, I’ve added up all the hours for which you billed your clients, and by my calculation you must be about 193 years old!" (ahajokes)

I look forward to seeing Jason, Dan Gaffney, and the team at FirstDocs increase the efficiency of lawyers.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/jim_pollock555 Jim Pollock

    People spend too much time maligning lawyers. When you boil it down, it's only 99% of all lawyers that give a bad name to the rest.

    Jim

    PS: Mark and Jason please forgive me.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/David_Schulhof David_Schulhof

    All of this great information and thoughts here, with full disclosure, and now jokes too.
    What a value!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/petekazanjy petekazanjy

    I can't speak as much for startup lawyers as the broader "tech" lawyer. However, I can certainly say that there is a *large* market opportunity to pull out inefficiency from the legal practice as it relates to software go-to-market. And I would argue that attorneys could learn some good best practices from the product managers and software engineering managers they work with.

    Standardization of common tools (FirstDoc's bread and butter, it seems) is a good first start. Don't Repeat Yourself is a well adhered to cow-path because it works. However, when your business model is based on time instead of output, you likely have disincentives to strip time out of your business process.

    Standardization of common services (and pricing associated therewith) is another–this is where I've seen companies like LegalZoom who offer rack-rate pricing for standard things like LLCs, incorporation, wills, and so forth.

    To be fair, there are times (not infrequently in business), where there needs to be customization…but I often see customization and perseveration on certain points that clearly could do without. But when you're running the meter, why say "We've gone past the point of diminishing returns"? On the VMware Fusion team, we have a saying: Shipping *is* a feature. So yes, even though yet another rev of a workflow or UI element *could* be nice, is it blocking getting things out the door? What *other* feature could that engineer / lawyer be working on?

    And this brings me to my next point. The mindset that I've come to see dominate tech legal practice (primarily at VMware, where my experience has been the deepest), and this is something that FirstDoc probably can't help us with, is one of extreme risk aversion. I get that this is somewhat ingrained in legal DNA. And yes, it's one thing to keep the business from walking into a buzz saw. I understand that. However, it's another thing to "default to no" without taking into consideration the opportunity cost associated with those decisions.

    If someone can build me a tool that can size and prove out opportunity cost from extreme legal hesitance, and then, say, let me bill it to their org….well, I'd be the first customer…

  • http://www.intensedebate.com/people/petekazanjy petekazanjy

    I can't speak as much for startup lawyers as the broader "tech" lawyer. However, I can certainly say that there is a *large* market opportunity to pull out inefficiency from the legal practice as it relates to software go-to-market. And I would argue that attorneys could learn some good best practices from the product managers and software engineering managers they work with.

    Standardization of common tools (FirstDoc's bread and butter, it seems) is a good first start. Don't Repeat Yourself is a well adhered to cow-path because it works. However, when your business model is based on time instead of output, you likely have disincentives to strip time out of your business process.

    Standardization of common services (and pricing associated therewith) is another–this is where I've seen companies like LegalZoom who offer rack-rate pricing for standard things like LLCs, incorporation, wills, and so forth.

    To be fair, there are times (not infrequently in business), where there needs to be customization…but I often see customization and perseveration on certain points that clearly could do without. But when you're running the meter, why say "We've gone past the point of diminishing returns"? On the VMware Fusion team, we have a saying: Shipping *is* a feature. So yes, even though yet another rev of a workflow or UI element *could* be nice, is it blocking getting things out the door? What *other* feature could that engineer / lawyer be working on?

    And this brings me to my next point. The mindset that I've come to see dominate tech legal practice (primarily at VMware, where my experience has been the deepest), and this is something that FirstDoc probably can't help us with, is one of extreme risk aversion. I get that this is somewhat ingrained in legal DNA. And yes, it's one thing to keep the business from walking into a buzz saw. I understand that. However, it's another thing to "default to no" without taking into consideration the opportunity cost associated with those decisions.

    If someone can build me a tool that can size and prove out opportunity cost from extreme legal hesitance, and then, say, let me bill it to my legal org….well, I'd be the first customer…

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