One of my favorite memes from the interwebs is “You’re doing it wrong.” To quote the Urban Dictionary, it’s “what you would say to someone who is failing it miserably,” for example, a soccer player standing on his head (no hands!), a pickup driving down a boat ramp into the water head first, President Bush holding the phone upside down, carpooling, parenting, sunscreen, football, cycling, … well, you get the point.
I’ve had some interesting interwebs conversations about the law business, including one on my blog that included this comment from Ken Adams: “As I read the closing two paragraphs of your post, the final words of The Count of Monte Cristo came to mind: ‘Wait and hope.’ Not a particularly promising sentiment when it comes to law practice!” Here are the last two paragraphs he was talking about:
I think crowd-sourced contracts have potential for similar magic. The fact that no one seems to have found the formula yet doesn’t mean that it won’t happen. The fact that freely-available contract forms generally reflect suboptimal drafting is no argument that crowd-sourced contracting can’t produce quality documents any more than the fact that EDGARized contracts reflect suboptimal drafting means that corporate law firms can’t produce quality documents.
Is it a pie-in-the-sky notion that busy lawyers will spend time working for free to contribute to crowd-sourced contracts? I really don’t think so. Just look at all the energy that’s being expended writing blogs, publishing articles, and preparing for speaking engagements, all for free. We would do it, if only someone could create the right _____ to make it a worthwhile project. Surely, someone out there can fill in the blank.
I’ll grant that there’s no guarantee that the crowd will ever make significant contributions to law practice, but I can’t help but think that the legal services industry is doing it wrong. Here are some reasons why:
- Most small businesses and individuals can’t afford legal representation, so they go without.
- Most legal work is performed slowly and inefficiently by high-cost providers.
- Although lawyers do complex projects, we don’t use project management techniques.
- Much legal work is performed by lawyers who don’t know the area of law at issue very well.
- Although technology exists to automate legal document drafting, it’s barely used.
- Although lawyers now use ctrl x, we’re still cutting and pasting contract clauses.
- The same mistakes are made over and over (e.g., Zappos terms and conditions).
- There’s a huge market for legal services, so there’s plenty of money to fund R&D, yet there’s little being done.
- It’s difficult to quickly find answers to legal questions due to the lack of quality resources.
Why aren’t we drafting ever better contracts, more quickly, and at a lower cost? Why aren’t our methods improving over time? Why isn’t legal knowledge more accessible, both to lawyers and to non-lawyers?
It’s as if we’re still walking behind a team and plow on our two acres while most other industries are using tractors and combines. With the tremendous demand for legal services, the size of the market, and the potential for technological progress, why aren’t we doing it better? We must be doing it wrong.