I recently finished reading George Beaton’s and Imme Kaschner’s Remaking Law Firms: Why & How (ABA Press: 2016) (George, who I’ve known for years and count a friend, was kind enough to have the ABA provide me a pre-publication copy) and I’d like to share my thoughts.

First, for those of you who may not be familiar with the authors (I do not know Dr Kaschner and have not met or talked with her), here are their capsule bio’s:

Dr George Beaton MD MBA PhD has guided clients through a wide variety of business and strategic decisions in his 25 years as an advisor and researcher working with law and other professional services firms. George’s practice is focused on corporate advisory, client-centric performance improvement, and trouble-shooting engagements.

George’s background in teaching business strategy in the Business and Law Schools of The University of Melbourne, where he is a Senior Fellow, combined with his advisory work give him deep knowledge of the challenges and opportunities facing law firm leaders and their firms.

Dr Imme Kaschner JD MD was admitted as an Australian lawyer in March 2015, following her graduation from the Melbourne Law School JD program in 2013. Her interest in how complex systems, including the legal services industry, work and change, led to the cooperation with George, first project managing the compilation of the e-book NewLaw New Rules: A Conversation on the Future of the Legal Services Industry, and now coauthoring Remaking Law Firms: Why and How.

Besides the authors, the book includes contributions—mostly in the form of quotes from emails and phone interviews—from no fewer than 40 other people, drawn from BigLaw leadership, consultancies, academe, and the various new entrants into Law Land (Axiom, Deloitte, PwC, Elevate, Lawyers On Demand, etc.)

George is a hands-on consultant and his background clearly shows in the book. A simple glance at the Table of Contents tells you as much:

1> Introduction

2> The Legal Services Industry Today

3> Porter’s Five Forces and Maister Maxed Out

4> Clients of the Future

5> The 2025 Kaleidoscope Scenario

6> Diagnosing Your Firm’s Readiness for Change

7> Designing the Busines Model

8> Brand, Marketing, and Business Development

9> Pricing and Fee Arrangements

10> Sourcing and Outsourcing

11> Legal Project Management and Process Improvement

12> Technology, Knowledge Management, and Analytics

13> Partners, Innovation, and Change

14> Outlook

Other reviewers of the book have picked up the same theme of a same practical approach. For example:

[The book] offers law firm leaders a comprehensive and pragmatic examination of the present and future legal landscape and what firms can do to make the most of it.  As the title suggests, Beaton believes law firms must remake themselves.  He provides very valuable counsel on how they should do it.—Ralph Baxter, Former Chairman & CEO of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP

George Beaton and Imme Kaschner build a compelling case for change with this accessible, research-based, and remarkably wide-ranging resource for building the future of our profession and practices, inside firms and in-house. —Fred Headon, Canadian Bar Association: Chair of the Legal Futures Initiative and Immediate Past President | Air Canada: Assistant General Counsel, Labour and Employment Law

The book begins from the premise that changes in client demand are driving deep changes in the legal services industry which law firms will have to adapt to by remaking their own business models including learning from and joining forces with other legal service providers that aren’t law firms. It proceeds to discuss the key engines behind the changes that are underway including digitization, a heightened focus on delivering commoditized services efficiently and reliably and a decreased focus on bespoke and artisanal work, client buying power, and the emergence of substitution and disaggregation.

The book then walks us through the application of two all-time classic strategic models to BigLaw: Michael Porter’s Five Forces, and David Maister’s profitability analysis. For those of you rusty on your Porter, here it is in summary visual form:

IndustryHandbookPFF

Applying this model to BigLaw (I’ve done it myself; it’s a classic, as I said) does not generate warm and fuzzy results these days:

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