Momentum Law Labs is our space to explore the What, the How and the Why of making legal services, well, better. Particularly business law services. Not content to explore this discussion on our own, we want to engage other legal professionals seeking to disrupt our marketplace.
Momentum Law was founded on the premise that a small, boutique law firm could innovate faster and with more success than a large law firm environment would allow. Years of working in large law firms convinced me that law firms needed to innovate to meet the rising expectations of our clients: at the core of the problem was that we needed to become more efficient. Efficiency would allow us to lower fees, provide faster and more accurate service and, ultimately, improve our profit margins.
Legal Services are traditionally painfully inefficient: Law is a business, like any other: if a business can’t meet the expectations of its’ clients or customers, those clients and customers will choose an alternate service provider. For too many years, lawyers have assumed that our trusted business advisor relationship with our clients meant that we could wallow in inefficiency and pass that on to clients in the form of high fees. The problem is, the combination of inefficiency and high fees does not create higher profit margins for lawyers. Added to that, if someone else figures out how to deliver efficiencies that you have not figured out, you will begin to lose market share in your particular space.
Perhaps the decision makers at the large firms are senior enough to not be concerned: the full effect of this change will not be realized while they are still actively practicing. That just isn’t good enough for Gen X or the upcoming Millennial Lawyer generations. We must rise to meet this challenge.
The Competitive Landscape: There are absolutely “traditional” business law firms (and many other general or specialized practice firms) looking for ways to innovate legal service delivery. I’m hoping you are reading this and will engage in discussion! Balancing that firm-based innovation is pressure from increasing options for clients. In the business law space, it comes from online services for incorporation and document templates. It comes from completely virtual firms. It comes from Google. Sites such as Docracy.com challenge solicitors to look at the value they provide as transcending the document template. It has become common in the US for large firms to provide document templates (with all the appropriate disclaimers) on their sites. The value those firms provide is simply so much more than the template documents which have circulated through thousands of hands — lawyers and clients.
What a law firm has to address is how they can prioritize the value which those options don’t provide to clients: the trusted advice. The experience of hundreds or thousands of clients and deals — including those that went horribly sideways. The knowledge which we have accumulated not just from the books we’ve read, but the deals we’ve participated in.
The complexity lies in finding enough efficiencies in all the less valuable work to deliver the more valuable work and still increase profit margins.
The Momentum Approach: When we started Momentum, we explored a number of different possibilities. We looked at the possibility of being a completely virtual firm. We had discussions with a major provider of online legal documents in the US about launching a Canadian version. We explored all the then-existing document automation options. Ultimately, we decided that the right space for us was to be a “traditional” bricks-and-mortar firm, but better. We felt that was the only way to deliver the key, valuable advice which clients need from us.
We decided that we would seek out every efficiency we could — not matter how small. If it saved us 5 minutes, we tried it out. Our only rule was that it was a least neutral to the client experience, at best it would improve the client experience.
There is an example I love: we have a coffee pot which is in heavy use at our office. It takes 8 scoops of coffee to make it what I consider the right strength of coffee. 8 scoops are just enough to feel like you are scooping coffee for too long and, half of the time, your attention drifts and you lose track of how many scoops are in the filter already. Coffee ends up too weak or too strong. So, we figured out an alternate measure which only required 2 scoops. Less time, more accuracy. 2 scoops are better than 8.
Our quest for the 2 Scoop answers are what we are going to blog about here: our trial and error efforts for efficiencies and options in service for our clients. Some big steps forward, some tiny changes, some mistakes. This is meant to be a conversation — we want to engage you, reader, with your stories from the trenches. We want to know what’s working for you and what you think of our efforts.
The good news is this: finding efficiency and increasing profit margins leads to a more fulfilling practice; one where the paperwork takes a back seat to spending time interacting with your clients, understanding their businesses and providing real advisory value.
-Megan Cornell, Founder & CEO: Momentum Law