Corporate law departments face budget pressure and demand more value from their law firms. Yet they cannot clearly define value.

Many think that value means efficiency. Efficiency alone, however, misses many other ways to control cost and create value. Working efficiently on an unnecessary task still wastes money. I expanded on this idea in my November 2011 blog post To Reduce Legal Spend, Do Less Law.  I continue developing the idea in frequent #DoLessLaw Tweets and occasional Do Less Law blog posts.

What exactly does it mean, however, to do less law? And how big an opportunity is it? At ILTA 2015, you can crowdsource the answers. Tim Corcoran and I will moderate an interactive session on this topic. In prep for it, this post presents the idea in more detail and seeks feedback.

The taxonomy below lists Do Less Law options. Whether you think the ideas are terrible or great, we welcome comments or email to help refine it. And we hope to see many of you at our session on Wednesday, September 2, 2015 at 3:30pm PDT in Las Vegas.

Our goal at the session is to get you and your colleagues discussing these ideas and deciding which are worth pursuing – and how to pursue them.

The dialogue has already begun. Jeff Carr sent an email with extensive comments that I will publish next week. He is the former GC of FMC Technologies and well-known as a “legal delivery system (r)evolutionary”.

[I first published this post at the ILTA KM blog as More “Do Less Law” (26 May 2015). Tim published a similar version at Corcoran’s Business of Law Blog titled Do Less Law – Redefining Value in the Delivery of Legal Services (2 June 2015.)]


A Taxonomy of Do Less Law

  1. Do what we now do but better
    1. Improve Efficiency
      1.  Automate
        1. Lawyers learn tech to their work faster and more consistently
        2. Market adopts interactive advisory systems (e.g., Neota Logic) or cognitive computing (e.g, IBM Watson) to supplement or replace lawyer work
      2.  Improve process to eliminate waste
      3. Manage work to control effort (legal project management)
    2. Reduce Cost
      1. Staff matters with lower cost resources (“alternative staffing”)
      2. Partner with or use alternative providers (LPO, New Law, doc review companies, or .lower cost firms
      3. Reduce overhead with smaller offices, moving work to low cost centers, and working virtually)
  2. Do what we now do but less intensively
    1. Scope matters systematically, more specifically, decide explicitly the level of effort warranted
      1. In transactions, decide what risks need papering
      2. In litigation, use risk analysis (decision trees) to value matters
    2. Stick to scope with legal project management (LPM)
  3. Do less than we do now by practicing  preventive law
    1. Improve compliance (or decide consciously the appropriate level of compliance)
    2. Identify legal risks in advance and then act to avoid them
      1. Conduct legal health audit and act on findings
      2. Use big data and analytics to find problem
        1. Detect prior “bad patterns” to prevent future recurrence
        2. Identify risky behaviors via analyzing email traffic (“big brother”)
    3. Train corporate employees to comply where cost of non-compliance is too high
  4. Re-think how we do what we do now
    1. “Settle” sooner
      1. Decide litigation settlement value earlier and stick to it
      2. Decide transaction key terms and stop negotiating when you get them
      3. Decide how thorough a counseling answer is enough – what risks are you willing to live with – boulders or motes of dust?
    2. Create open source law (this is not the law of open source code)
      1. Pool know-how and re-usable documents across clients (privately or publicly, e.g., Docracy)
      2. Think of this as collective knowledge management (KM)
    3. Simplify and rationalize contracts
      1. Eliminate the unnecessary complexity, ambiguity, and duplication in many contracts by simplifying language
    4. Automate contracts
      1. Use existing technology more and more effectively
        1. Analyze and systematize contracts (with, e.g., KM Standards)
        2. Build document assembly systems
        3. Deploy contract lifecycle management software (e.g., Apttus or Selectica)
        4. Use eSigning software
      2. Re-invent contracts
        1. Write contracts as software code
        2. Write contracts as database records (XML, JSON, or similar)
        3. Design and deploy a Blockchain approach
    5. Re-think litigation
      1. Substitute information governance for eDiscovery
      2. Do risk analysis (e.g., decision trees) to assess individual matters and portfolios
      3. Assess cases early and decide consciously  whether to look for boulders, rocks, stones, pebbles, or motes of dust.
      4. Online dispute resolution
    6. Automate counseling
      1. Collect inquiries systematically (KM)
      2. Develop interactive advisory systems to handle high volume problems
      3. Convert regulations into code

[Update of 19 Jan 2016: Added simplify and rationalize contracts. Hat tip to Ken Adams]