This book was written by Mitch Kowalski a Canadian lawyer, author, speaker and entrepreneur and is aimed at anybody who expects (hopes) to be successfully practising law in the second decade of the 21st century and beyond.
Read more about Mitch here.
Maria Fernandez is a GC for Kowtor Industries and is fed up of her external legal partners. Maria and her team begin to create an ITT for a new panel of lawyers and as they document their requirements a new form of law firm begins to emerge.
Their key decision making factors are:-
- Value for money and not billable hours
- Knowledge management not just IT that doesn’t work
- Environment and diversity taken seriously
- Effective as well as efficient
- A culture of continual professional development
- A fixed term; fixed fee model
- KPIs and SLAs that offer bonuses as well as penalties
She then encounters Sylvester Bowen of Bowen, Fong and Chandri (BFC) a new and very progressive law firm. Following an interview she watches of Bowen on YouTube and a visit to their offices with her boss Henry Kow, CEO of Kowtor Industries she feels she has discovered the promised land.
Blue-print for a Modern Law Firm
The book then moves onto Mark Reynolds a newbie lawyer at BFC as he lives thru his first day at the firm. He learns about the firm’s approach to green issues, Cloud and SaaS IT, liberal working practices, project management, budgeting, LPO and knowledge management. Following a series of meetings with key BCF staff and a breathtaking lunch with Bowen himself he begins to see how BFC are worlds apart from traditional law firms. He learns such things as:-
- BFC sells results not time
- Law firms that concentrate on billable hours perpetuate inefficiency and will become obsolete
- A virtual working environment including place of work, IT, Knowledge management and training is the most effective approach to take in the modern legal services world
- Use of smart sourcing including outsourcing and home workers to provide a flexible support for the permanent lawyers
- Rewards should be based on experience and performance including bonus’s and a share option scheme
- Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO) is a key part of the equation but only if it’s integrated and monitored
- Only hire experienced lawyers, let somebody else do the training for you
- The law is only just another business service
- The firm and it’s processes are more important than any one lawyer
- Lawyers should be free to do the law and not be burdened with unnecessary administration. The death of timesheeting.
- Billable hours encourage ineffectiveness.
- Continuous improvement is essential based upon a platform of e-learning
- Project management is key in a fixed fee environment
- The lawyers don’t own the clients the firm does – cross selling is about gaining revenue not losing control
The book ends with a management meeting dinner where Bowen announces he is resigning in favour of a non-lawyer CEO implying that business should be run by business people whilst lawyers practice the law. A fitting end to the book I feel.
The book certainly is worth a read but at £50 it comes at a hefty price (despite the author’s protestations that it should retail for less). I have been banging on about how law firms have got to get all “21st century” for ages but what Kowalski has done here is present his (and my) version of what that law firm should look like in a very easy to read format.
Maybe you could get the managing partner to shell out for a shared copy for the firm. Anyhow, if you fancy a glance at the future buy it here.
Anybody who is in their element is going to know it. A feeling of ease, freedom and of being at home coupled with enormous satisfaction and spectacular results. This is what The Element is all about.
Those of you who have children in the early stages of education or anybody who just feels work is a struggle that provides little or no enjoyment should read this book. For an idea of what inspired him to write the book why not watch this TED talk from 2006 “Schools Kill Creativity”.
Robinson’s easy speaking style transfers very well to the written word especially when exploring the many real-life experiences of people, some you’ll know and others you won’t, who found their element and the effect it had on their lives.
He discusses how passions and talents combine to create your element and what this means to your life. He exposes why today’s education system with its IQ tests and funnelling of young minds into 19th century subjects is so damaging – this explained so many uncomfortable aspects of my school days which I found quite therapeutic.
Creativity is a key theme of the book which Robinson claims will be one of the most important skills in the world that is unfolding before us. He also shows how creativity, something everybody is born with, is them systematically wrung out of most us as we move through the educational system and, on a brighter note, what can be done about it.
He portrays the element in the following sections: -
- Passion and ability combined and how to show these off
- Developing your talents through mentors and the freedom to try, fail and learn
- The role of the educational establishment
- Connecting with your “tribe” of like-minded people and the strength that this brings
- How attitude and luck plays a part in developing your element
- Encouraging examples that demonstrate it’s never too late to find and develop your element
Speaking personally I had my own epiphany, as Robinson calls it when you first discover your element, when I was introduced to computers in 1978. Up until that point I had struggled academically with average to poor grades and constantly struggling to keep up then I discovered programming and everything changed. From that moment on it was like I was at home: I was able to see lines of code in my head; see solutions to complex problems in terms of program constructs and for the first time people were asking for my help. I ended up with a first in computer science as a result of finding my element.
The book is great food for thought although is more of a “what” than a “how to” but for all that I enjoyed it very much. Had I read it when I was 14 (very unlikely I must say) or when my children were younger I feel it would have had a profound effect on me and my loved ones. Well worth a read in my opinion – buy it here.