Failing on the Back of a Napkin: An Approach to Business Models for Every Lawyer
To succeed, you must fail. It is true. We know this, yet so many of us divert our energy away from activities that might allow us to fail. Personally this might be called a character flaw. Professionally this is, simply stated, deadly. If you do not believe me read any book about innovation, leadership, or better yet entrepreneurship and the start-up culture. In order to remain on top in any business (yes law is a business) an organization must be testing on the micro-level, different services/products, and on the macro-level, more business models. And they must be failing in order to make progress.
The legal profession is not one where failing or experimentation is celebrated or embraced. Precedent and status quo are more meaningful. Can anyone argue with the statement that using a 60 year old business model in the year 2012 may not be the wisest thing to do? How many US law firms have changed their model over the last five or six decades? Contrast that with how many new models we are seeing come out of the start-up world? It is cliché but true – evolve or die.
Evolution in the business world is evident when an organization pivots its direction or strategy. Another example would be when an organization offers a new product/service that represents at least a reasonable amount of potential value to its customers. For example adding a blog to a website, discounting bills, or providing free legal forms (static or generated) is not evolving a business model. These may be complimentary services or “value-adds” (hate that phrase BTW.) Changing a business model alters the revenue paths that the organization creates in a significant way. To use another cliché, IBM moving from a hardware manufacturer to a knowledge provider – that is a model shift.