September 15, 2017

Designing a Better Law Firm

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Last month, I was lucky enough to participate in something called TBD Law, an invitation-only retreat for innovative lawyers (I hear you snickering folks) who are rethinking the way lawyers deliver services to clients. To say it was an amazing experience is an understatement. There were lawyers from every part of the country, from every conceivable practice area. The mission? To reinvent a very dated and broken business model.

I felt connected.  I felt liberated.

When I transitioned from business and government (after my big law firm litigation stint) into a small law practice eight years ago, it was heresy to look at the business of law critically. But I saw much that needed improvement. I was swimming upstream, with the legal community in general and sometimes, sadly, with former partners.  

Every lawyer I knew had an opinion. “You aren’t going to hire associates? Leveraging them is the key to making the most money.” “What do you mean flat fees—you really bill hourly, right?” “If you don’t rent an office in a high rise downtown you won’t get decent clients.” “Oh, so you are a solo? (cue the judgment, then pity)” “Wouldn’t you rather be in the kind of big firm you started your practice in?

It was lonely I’ll admit… but I remained undaunted.

You know who did seem to get it though? Clients. They appreciated the flat and capped fees because it gave them certainty about pricing. They didn’t care that I was in a multi-business building; lots of them were too. They liked that I had a circle of collaborators who I could consult with when something drifted outside my wheelhouse. They liked that I had a diverse background and had worked in business making actual real life business decisions, not just decisions regarding risk. They liked that I could refer them to all kinds of providers-CPAs, graphic artists, administrative help and insurance agents. They really liked that I put together project budgets (particularly for transactions) and took on limited-scope engagements.

So I dug in and worked on building systems, deployed technology, changed it up, solicited feedback, tinkered some more and surrounded myself with people who were open to trying new processes.

That is how I ended up in the Ozarks with a group of 50+ lawyers, learning what they were doing and thinking about what I could do differently. My mind has been buzzing ever since.

One of the lovely parting gifts provided by our extraordinary hosts Sam Glover, Aaron Street and Matt Homan of The Lawyerist (, was the mind-blowing book Law is a Buyer’s Market. Jordan Furlong penned it. I started it on the plane and devoured it.

The book targets medium size firms, those most at risk in the current legal marketplace where change is happening almost too rapidly to process. But as someone who competes with these firms daily, it is just as much my playbook as it is theirs. Furlong believes that as service providers, the key is designing deliverables with the end user experience and objectives in mind. Novel right? Nope. Not at all. Sadly that’s the case for an industry that still thinks it is okay to pass every cost it incurs including its rent, supplies and administration on to its customers.  

By now you may be wondering why on earth you should care about any of this. You don’t even like to talk to lawyers, let alone read a book about them, right? Well, you can relax because that is not what I need you to do.

All I’m asking is that you spend just five minutes thinking about what you need in a legal service provider and email me. That’s it. I thought about a SurveyMonkey, but I’m going to keep it simple for now. I know I’m asking for your time but, in return, I promise to give you a 10% discount on your next bill.

Here is what I’d like to know:

  • What works for you and what doesn’t?  
  • Are you interested in simple documents you can access for a small fee online anytime you want?  
  • Would you like to explore a monthly subscription for general counsel services---if so, what would you like to see in that?  
  • What other services do you need that don’t fall into the traditional legal-services bucket?  
  • Would you like to meet other clients who are service providers?  
  • Would you like more videos to access and if so, on what topics?  
  • What kind of technological improvements can we make?  
  • If you are selling your business in the near future, how can we make the process easier?  

Just send three suggestions to and, yes, they can include gripes. We can’t iterate if we don’t know the needs.

I would be so grateful for your time.


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