Post by Peter Lotz, M.C.J. (NYU) Attorney, Attorney-At-Law (N.Y.) MAYRFELD LLP

A look at the why and the how rather than the if and the when.

When we started out with the first concepts for MAYRFELD, we were wondering what would make the difference with a law firm today. Excellent client service, top notch expertise, cross-border experience are a given, and from our perspective core requirements of a corporate client. No additional scores on that one. The timing for establishing a new firm did not seem to offer us specific advantages or disadvantages either – although the emergence of legal technology put a certain spin on it.

Looking at the market we found that the great majority of the players often left us wondering why they would do what they do and why they would actually be part of their specific work environment. Further, we found that a number of law firms would still apply traditional paradigms as to the “how” and did not seem to put significant thought in the fashion they would do their job, i.e., how they would want to communicate their expertise, stand in for their clients, and – most importantly – in which fashion they would want to collaborate.

Taking a look at the emerging disruptive legal technologies, or at disruptive technologies in general – basically, taking a look at the historical development of disruptive technologies – we came to the conclusion that in order to create something new, we would need to reflect on why we are doing what we do and, actually, how we would want to practice the law going forward. Contrary to expectations, that is not a no-brainer.

Disruption

Historically, disruptive technologies did not always re-invent the wheel. They re-invented the fashion in which we are using a wheel. The invention of a washing machine is often referred to as a good example for the development of a disruptive technology. In fact, although a simple example, it illustrates nicely that changes often concern “how” we do things and not so much the question “what” we do. Mankind has been washing clothes for centuries. Hundreds of years ago the need and the goal was not different from today: clean clothes. However, since the advent of the washing machine the fashion in which we are washing clothes has changed dramatically. The existence of washing machines has not completely replaced laundries or made them obsolete, however. These days, laundries are focusing on the use of technology (washing machines) rather than the use of labor. At the same time, the use and the improvement of the corresponding technology had a positive effect on the process and the outcome of doing your laundry: cleaner clothes. And most laundries are evaluated by the quality of their work rather than the size of their operations.

The above example is not meant to compare laundries with law firms. It is meant to illustrate that a century old business – although its core has not changed – has been re-invented by the fashion in which (how) it is performed.

Gaining Momentum

We see a great danger for law firms losing their momentum due to their retention of traditional structures, inefficient concepts (or the lack of it), and inefficient organization. And we do not limit this theory to the financials. You can find efficiency gaps in organization, management, research, (internal) communication – frankly, in any aspect of running a law firm. Often, inefficiencies are caused by the lack of technology or the use of the wrong technology, by adhering to outdated office routines, lack of expertise, by tradition, but also by personalities, power, and status.

Conceptually, MAYRFELD is focusing on the technology industries. Industry focus is not new. However, we offer specific expertise and work-product along and tailored to the specific stages in the development and commercialization of technology. Further, in order to provide an integrated work-product, MAYRFELD combines legal, regulatory and technical expertise by collaborating with non-legal experts. That allows us to take a 360-degree approach from the first ignition of an innovative idea to its development and commercialization – integrated in the overall context of your business, a specific project, and your long-term vision.

We have implemented an internal work-flow that does go a little beyond traditional or conventional approaches. However, we wanted to create room for unleashing free creativity and giving birth to new ideas. Integrated technologies help us to manage, organize, and create our expertise, knowledge management, communication, and quality assurance. We know of the advantages of institutional frameworks, and we find that they are essential for maintaining quality ensuring operational procedures within a law firm. However, we think that institutional frameworks are easier to manage and validate in a smaller environment rather than in a large setting. And we believe that validation is an important factor that can be managed in many different ways, however, is never limited to setting out a firm policy.

Communication is a key element in the formation of legal work product and the application of legal advice or representation. The digital era allows us to decentralize communication. We do not have to be at the same office or location, on the same territory or in the same time zone to combine our expertise or to comment, share, supplement or supervise when working together. At MAYRFELD we are using integrated technology to facilitate communication unfettered by local restrictions. This provides us with more focused flexibility and availability internally and for our clients.

Last but not least we created an environment that is ready for implementing future (technological) development in the legal practice. In a technology-driven environment, the need for size is less relevant. Eventually, algorithms will take over legwork – to some extent, they are already conducting due diligence and legal research. We think that, as a result, technology will help us to (re)focus on the core of practicing law: talent, ingenuity, expertise, experience, thorough analysis, ideas. Technology allows smaller teams to play the full impact of their smartness without getting distracted or losing momentum over legwork. Quality of work will experience a renaissance and size will become less relevant.

Matching Talent With Opportunity

We have been active in the practice of law for some time. We have been part of Big Law and of midsize firms. We have seen both ends of the business law firm spectrum from many different perspectives in the role of a junior as well as from the employer position. No matter of the perspective we have taken in the past, we were often left with the question: “Why?”

We think that practicing the law is still a profession – and not just a job. We love what we do (well, most times). We are entrepreneurs and, therefore, we understand entrepreneurial thinking and necessities. We are not free from pursuing our own interest, however: we want to have a rewarding professional experience. A lawyer’s time is part of his or her stock in trade, however, often the dynamics of a lawyer’s working environment do not allow him or her to comprehensively expend their time on a specific client issue. We believe that rethinking internal organization enables us to regain that time. Eventually, we want to create opportunities – for us and for our clients.

In going one step beyond we aim to return to the core of the practice of law: personal, innovative, sophisticated, individual, strategic and sustainable counsel and representation of interests. And this core is not represented by machines. It is fulfilled by personalities applying their ingenuity, expertise and experience. However, these personalities also need room for thorough analysis, innovative ideas and constructive teamwork.

We think that the advent of legal technology allows us to emphasize on personalities again, and that our structure enables us to add the right people upon opportunity rather than economic necessity. We like the role of a lawyer as a trusted adviser, fighter – and loyal friend. And we want to create an environment where we can match talent with our vision.

The Effect

We developed a structure that ideally combines our internal needs with external necessities (or vice versa), a flexible system that is successfully managed for quality control, however, provides room for innovative ideas, performance of sophisticated services, responsiveness to our professional needs and, above all, an ideal platform for perfect client service.

We can focus. We can focus on our clients and devote as much time and effort in their matters and projects as required. We can focus on our work. Our disruptive re-organization provides the required room for us to focus on providing counsel, analysis, deal structuring and client representation. We can focus on our peers. And we are operating in a framework that provides ourselves with the flexibility that we need for flexible client responses.

We can match talent. We can provide room for talent that may not thrive in a more traditional environment. To our benefit and to the benefit of our clients. We love what we do. However, we also have to realize that there is a life outside of our work environment. You need to stay fit, there are beloved ones who need your attention, you need to socialize and sometimes your mind needs a rest. These things do not always come in strictly scheduled time slots, and even if so, any strict procedures can severely interfere with a client’s needs. Sometimes our individual lives require a quantum flexibility that needs to be balanced against professional responsibilities.

We think that we would deprive society from opportunities if we did not allow us and our clients to take advantage of talent just because the individuals for personal reasons might not be in the position to strictly adhere to traditionally timed work parameters. In the past, we have seen talented lawyers who had to give up unique personal careers for sudden unexpected changes in their personal lives and environment. We think it is a shame if counselors are forced by the dynamics of their work environment to quit their careers. We believe to have created an environment to provide the right work-life-balance to allow such talent to flourish – without restrictions on client service. And we think that our firm provides the right platform in this regard to the benefit of our clients and of ourselves.

We are entrepreneurs and as such we have a vision. Legal work product has become a commodity and the industrialization of legal practice will continue. We will certainly be a part of it, however, it is our intention to use technological advances for compensating labor intensive services while retaining a modest size – for all of the above benefits. Having followed these thoughts up to this point may be an indicator for your interest in our approach.

This article is intended to convey general thoughts on the topic presented. It should not be relied upon as legal advice. It is not an offer to represent you, nor is it intended to create an attorney-client relationship. References to “MAYRFELD”, “the law firm”, and “legal practice” are to one or more of the MAYRFELD members. No individual who is a member, partner, shareholder, director, employee or consultant of MAYRFELD (whether or not such individual is described as a “partner”) accepts or assumes responsibility, or has any liability, to any person in respect to this communication. Any reference to a partner or director is to a member, employee or consultant with equivalent standing and qualifications of MAYRFELD. The purpose of this communication is to provide information as to developments in the law. It does not contain a full analysis of the law nor does it constitute an opinion of MAYRFELD on the points of law discussed. You must take specific advice on any particular matter which concerns you.

For more information about MAYRFELD LLP, please visit us at www.mayrfeld.com.

About the author Peter Lotz, M.C.J. (NYU) Attorney, Attorney-At-Law (N.Y.) MAYRFELD LLP
Peter Lotz is a partner of MAYRFELD LLP. He has been counseling for nearly 20 years domestic and foreign Fortune 500 companies as well as SMEs in connection with the cross-border developemt, acquisition, licensing and commercialization of novel technologies.
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