This is the last post of At the Intersection. As 2017 ends, so will this blog.
We are going to stop the presses. Bank the fires. Wind it up. Cease and desist. All that.
For over a decade now, At the Intersection has concerned itself with two interrelated quests: helping law firms make more money, and helping legal departments spend less money. These are not mutually exclusive desiderata; in fact we think over the years we’ve made a pretty good case for the proposition that if outside counsel and in-house counsel learn to collaborate and communicate better, it creates a predictable, repeatable, manageable tide that lifts all boats. Everyone wins…because everyone knows what it takes for everyone to win. Over and again.
What We Were, What We Weren’t
Those of you who have followed our posts know that we haven’t presumed to advise our readers on legal knowledge and subject matter expertise. Although we have both practiced law in a variety of settings, we’ve never been much interested in conducting CLE. Our focus – from all angles and perspectives – has been on the process of legal service delivery, rather than on the content of legal service delivery.
Law firms care about profitability, their clients care about costs. Those two priorities interface and align when law firms learn efficient, predictable and cost-effective legal service delivery…and their clients learn to better scope, price, supervise, and manage the activities of outside counsel. Sounds simple, but it ain’t, particularly in a dramatically shifting technological and economic environment.
Action at the Interface
In post after post, we dug into the tactics and techniques that enhance the law firm-client relationship, that build trust and that foster powerful working relationships and reward open communication, all while keeping a sharp eye (and often sharp tongue) on the forces, factors and technology that are transforming legal service delivery.
We think we can claim to be pioneers in the burgeoning discipline of Legal Project Management (LPM); indeed, Pam was in the first group of ABA Legal Rebels for her groundbreaking work on LPM, and the American Bar Association commissioned us to write a book on it, Legal Project Management in an Hour for Lawyers. That book, still relevant, still available from the ABA, reflects our constant determination to demystify LPM and show routes to better legal service delivery.
In addition to discussing methods, practices, tactics, techniques and metrics, we wanted to emphasize LPM’s human dimension. We also wanted to underscore its utility in bringing consistency and predictability to legal problems — which tend to be unique — rather than forcing parallels with industrial project management that makes sure all razor blades are manufactured absolutely identically. Both realms are concerned with quality; we emphasized that quality takes on a different face when lawyers are involved, placing a premium on the ability to move easily in harness, as Robert Frost put it, rather than conform rigidly to prescribed limits and metrics.
All Around the Park, All Around the Town
Our journey, perforce, took us into a variety of other areas of productivity, profitability and excellence:
- alternative fee agreements
- planning & budgeting
- application of technology
- outsourcing, leadership
- phase and task coding
- team development and supervision,
- damage control
- post project review.
And, of course, business development for the folks in law firms. Increasingly, it also led us into the dynamics of human interaction – the forces and factors that build (or destroy) trust, promote effective communication, create appropriate incentives, and keep us all mindful that all lawyers – regardless of role, seniority, gender, diversity, or style – are first and foremost proud professionals.
And Now for Today’s News
We never saw our role simply as being school teachers or pundits. We also alerted you to new developments and kept you abreast of current events. On occasion we played the prophet, at times we issued warnings. And among the best of our blogging times, we profiled personalities worthy of note: entrepreneurs and innovators, leaders, champions, pioneers, risk-takers, and exemplars of integrity, courage and vision. Frankly, keeping current was a lot of work. At the Intersection was not “evergreen” service journalism prescribing timeless wisdom; it worked hard to stay at the cutting edge, a discipline at which Pam, in particular, has excelled (Doug wrote that last line).
Along the way we’ve slapped a few wrists and on occasion had our wrists slapped. If our mail is to be believed, we certainly ruffled a few feathers and generated some heat along with the light. That’s good: clearly we have relished the role of provocateur and we have enjoyed the luxury of being truth-tellers. While we didn’t mind sharing a laugh or two, we always took our responsibilities seriously – while hopefully not taking ourselves too seriously.
A Parting Anecdote
Back in 1970, Shunryo Suzuki, a Zen master credited with bringing the discipline of Zen Buddhism to the United States, was giving another of his long and impenetrable discourses. A frustrated student, cried out, “Suzuki Roshi, I love what you say, but I just can’t understand what you mean! Can you summarize all of Zen Buddhism in a single sentence?
Suzuki said. “Two words: everything changes.”
And so it is with us. Law is changing, we are changing, and At the Intersection has finally reached a tipping point. As 2017 wore on, we realized that while we never lacked for strong opinions or something to say, our own priorities – and our own advocacy – had shifted in directions that could not be shoehorned neatly into At the Intersection’s historical legal footprint. Some of our causes and opinions did not even directly relate to law, lawyers and the legal profession.
Several weeks ago, after we posted a guest post on one law firm’s challenging experience with implementing LPM, Doug looked up at Pam.
“Time?” he said.
“Time,” Pam said.
And so it goes. It certainly has been rewarding and fun. Thank you for reading, reacting, contributing and serving as the grist for our mill. We would not have missed it, and we will miss it. But as we now have both agreed, “Time.”
Different Journeys, Different Directions
As Monty Python would say, “and now for something entirely different.” It’s time to journey on — as always, in our own distinctive way.