Gina Passarella’s recent article, “Talking Business of Law: The Dance Around Change,” explores whether the long static legal industry is undergoing real change or simply dancing around it. The analysis emanates from her attendance at a panel discussion on law firm innovation hosted by an international firm. Let’s put aside the irony of a law firm hosting such a discussion and return to Passarella’s article and its somewhat halting conclusion that legal change is real even if incremental.

The author notes that clients and firms share common frustrations—and explanations—for why firms have largely stood pat. Partner blowback—even when management pushes for change—and not enough financial pain are the principal reasons cited. This is the view from the law firm perspective—”It’s not broke yet, so why fix it?” But the client view—the one that matters—paints a very different picture: “Law firms are not giving us what we want, so we are turning to other sources.” Those options are presently taking work in-house and/or sourcing it to tech and process-enabled service providers that have a corporate structure and culture that aligns well with the clients/customers they serve. Clients and firms might agree on the explanation for firm stasis, but clients—and service providers—are doing something about it. Consider were law’s situation to play out in the sports world—owners and coaches might agree on why the team is not living up to expectations and justifying payroll, but guess who gets fired?

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