Two New York Times articles on Monday make me think that lawyers have more in common with media moguls than I thought.  

Solving Equation of a Hit Film Script, With Data explains that

“The same kind of numbers analysis that has reshaped areas like politics and online marketing is increasingly being used by the entertainment industry…. Now, the slicing and dicing is seeping into one of the last corners of Hollywood where creativity and old-fashioned instinct still hold sway: the screenplay.”

A consultant performs a statistical analysis on a draft screenplay that compares its content and characters to successful screenplays. Based on the differences identified, the consultant suggests substantive changes to improve the odds of success. Of course, “many top screenwriters… [reject] statistical intrusion into their craft.”

Sound familiar? Much like screenwriters, many lawyers view themselves as creative geniuses: “How dare someone try to tell me how to do or improve my work – I am an artist.” In my view, however, most legal matters are more similar than lawyers think and therefore even easier to analyze statistically than are screenplays. A range of tools exist today that can help analyze and standardize documents and, more generally, improve the delivery of legal services, ; examples include KM Standards, Exemplify, DiligenceEngine, Docracy, HighQ Solutions, and Neota Logic.

Lawyers, unlike screenwriters, however, do not have studio chiefs breathing down their necks. Studios have a big incentive to maximize the likelihood of success and, since they bankroll production, can often get their way. Law firm management is NOT to partners as studio chiefs are to screenwriters. If clients were to BigLaw partners as studio chiefs are to screenwriters, then we would see faster uptake of products that both improve the efficiency of producing and quality of legal outputs.

Perhaps the bling blinds clients… Coincidentally, another article the same day turns on the “artiste mentality”. For Media Moguls, Paydays That Stand Out reports that CEO pay per $100k of market cap in media far exceeds that of other industries. Part of the explanation:

“Compensation experts say executives who negotiate in the rarefied air of glittering celebrities may begin to see themselves as magical themselves… ‘It infiltrates your thinking,’ said James Reda, a consultant at Gallagher Benefit Services specializing in executive compensation. ‘They begin to think of themselves as deserving as much as the talent.’ Of course, we all think we are worth more than we are paid, but that’s where boards and corporate governance come in. Or not.

‘These companies have historically weak boards and super aggressive chief executives,’ said Alan Johnson, a compensation consultant. ‘And I think the boards get dazzled by interacting with celebrities and going to parties.’ “

Sound familiar? Perhaps BigLaw partners indulge in some magical thinking as well. And perhaps they dazzle their clients. Granted, we live in a super star, winner-take-all economy. In the New Normal, partner super star status may be at risk for all but the top dozen firms. Beyond those firms … we may see the equivalent of studio chiefs and effective boards work their wonders. If it is not the GC doing so, increasingly, it will be the corporate procurement office.