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The New Normal

There’s Reason to Worry, Change in the Industry Can Be Profound

Posted Apr 14, 2011 1:30 PM CDT
By Patrick J. Lamb

Patrick Lamb

A lot has been written about change in the legal profession. Paul and I have contributed (well, added) to that body of work.

I wanted to bring someone else’s work to your attention. Danielle Sacks recently wrote:

They are each staring down at a blank poster-size sheet of paper, contemplating their most abject fears about their careers, their livelihoods, and their future. They have reason to worry…Eventually, everyone writes something, and after a few minutes, the group gathers in a circle—a safe space—where one by one they voice their insecurities. The first person stands up. ‘I walk around in fear and loathing, dazed and confused,’ he says. Another confesses, ‘I’m a person who’s petrified to fail.’ One by one, they exhale the cold fears of an entire industry: ‘I feel like I’m standing here and there are a thousand baseballs dropping from the sky and I don’t know which ones to catch.’ ‘I left my cushy job at a global [firm]. Actually, I didn’t leave; I was pushed out.’ ‘I kind of feel like the digital world is a gated world. It’s wide open, but I don’t even know enough to walk in.’ …. The carnage to come is going to be awesome.”

Ahhh, you’re saying, more of the same. Then again, maybe not. She continues:

“Like a beetle preserved in amber, the practice of advertising has sat virtually unchanged for the last half-century. Before 1960, ad making was a solitary practice. Copywriters toiled away on words to pitch a product, then handed them off to an art director who translated them into an illustration or photograph. Creative director Bill Bernbach (the B in DDB) changed all that when he recognized that pairing wordsmith and artist could spark genius. That simple move ignited the industry’s creative revolution, raising the practice of advertising from sleazy salesmanship to some permutation of art.

“The ad business became an assembly line as predictable as Henry Ford’s.…

“That was then. Over the past few years, because of a combination of Internet disintermediation, recession, and corporate blindness, the assembly line has been obliterated—economically, organizationally, and culturally. In the ad business, the relatively good life of 2007 is as remote as the whiskey highs of 1962. ‘Here we go again,’ moans Andy Nibley, the former CEO of ad agency Marsteller who, over the past decade, has also been the CEO of the digital arms of both Reuters and Universal Music. ‘First the news business, then the music business, then advertising. Is there any industry I get involved in that doesn’t get destroyed by digital technology?’ “

Sacks’ article in Fast Company, “The Future of Advertising,” is an eye-opening insight into just how fast things can change is a hide-bound industry.

I invite you to read the article and decide whether it makes the profound changes in the legal industry seem more or less likely.

Patrick Lamb is a founding member of Valorem Law Group, a litigation firm representing business interests. Valorem helps clients solve their business disputes and coping with pressures to reduce legal spend using nontraditional approaches, including use of nonhourly fee structures, coordination with LPOs or contract lawyers, joint-venturing with other firms and implementation of project management tools to handle lawsuits or portfolios of litigation.

Pat is the author of the the recently published book Alternative Fee Arrangements: Value Fees and the Changing Legal Market. He also blogs at In Search Of Perfect Client Service.

Editor’s note: The New Normal is an ongoing discussion between Paul Lippe, the CEO of Legal OnRamp, and Patrick Lamb, founding member of Valorem Law Group. Paul and Pat spend a lot of time thinking, writing and speaking about the changes occurring in the delivery of legal services. We hope you will join their discussions.

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