Would you go to your dentist for strategic advice?
Last weekend I had a little dental malfunction. Due to mysterious reasons a small piece of metal ended up in my food. As I obviously not anticipated this, it struck me by surprise. As normal chewing does not go well with pieces of metal, part of a tooth broke off. Fortunately, on Monday morning, I managed to get an emergency appointment with my dentist and all is well again now.
I assume that you are not the least interested in my dental experience, but it turns out that there is a striking similarity between dentists and lawyers, so bear with me.
Like many lawyers, a dentist has a very narrow specialization. They know everything about your mouth and the teeth that are in it, but little or nothing about any other part of the human body or psyche. Even if you have the best of relationships with your dentist, you would not go there to discuss general health issues. A dentist is a highly educated and experienced one-trick pony.
Last week I published an article about lawyers being tone-deaf. This too has led to a remarkable observation. Each Monday I get the statistics on the article that was published on the Friday before. After having published close to one hundred weekly articles, we have reliable metrics on readership and this article appeared to be an outlier. Looking at the 3-day readership numbers, the article was part of the all time top-3. What made it even more remarkable, is that 80% of readership was from client side (law firm clients that is). As the TGO Consulting client base is 80% law firms, this usually is exactly the other way round. We also received some 25 messages from GCs over the weekend underwriting the observations by the GC quoted in the article.
How come lawyers are not interested in this topic while their clients are hugely interested? In other words: why are lawyers not bothered by the GC of a global NYSE listed company saying in his opinion right now lawyers are a bit tone-deaf? I will look further into this as I do not have an explanation straight away. Maybe it is because many lawyers are like dentists: clients/patients only consult them with a very specific issue within a very narrow area of specialization. For a dentist it is very hard to solicit new business if people do not have dental issues or have bigger problems and their teeth are not a priority right now. If patients would complain that doctors are tone-deaf, would I feel that this applies to me as a dentist? Probably not.
We need Swarm Intelligence to find better solutions
Monday 4 May the renowned magazine Nature Communications published a peer reviewed article that scientists have created a monoclonal antibody that can defeat the new coronavirus in the lab. The antibody known as 47D11 targets the spike protein that gives the new coronavirus a crown-like shape and lets it enter human cells. This discovery could potentially mean a breakthrough in the fight against Covid-19. The research had been conducted by teams from 3 universities and lead by 10 leading scientists. Like most breakthrough inventions, this was not accomplished by one smart professor, working on his/her own. It is almost invariably Swarm Intelligence, which leads to big innovations. Even the prestigious Nobel price typically goes to more than one laureate.
The current economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 virus, is unlike any other crisis any of us have seen before. It is more severe and more complex than 9/11 and the 2008 financial crises combined. Governments, the economy, businesses, and societies in general are trying to stay afloat in uncharted waters. In finding workable solutions to help businesses and the economy survive, we are in desperate need of new, creative, and innovative solutions. Last week Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, stated that he had seen two years' worth of digital transformation in just two months.
Given the severity of the situation, businesses are pressed for time as it comes to finding new ways to operate in order to stay in business and weather this storm. When the GC I spoke with last week said he found law firms to be tone-deaf, it was exactly this what he meant. While he and everyone else in his team and throughout the company were fighting for survival, lawyers kept behaving like dentists who keep sending reminders for an annual check-up while their patient is in hospital fighting for his life.
What should lawyers do?
So, to those of our readership that are practicing lawyers, you that did not read last week’s article, I would say: “don’t be dentists”. For the next two years or so (and probably beyond), you will only be relevant to clients if you can really help them to survive the crisis. Dental care will not be a priority unless, like in my case last weekend, there is some unfortunate one-off incident.
Many of our readers are partners at some of the most prestigious law firms across the world. This league of firms has some of the smartest people in the industry. But like the scientists doing research on Covid-19 remedies, you don’t get far working on your own. Come to think of it, it is inexcusable for law firms not to tap into Swarm Intelligence to provide better and more relevant solutions to clients. You will be surprised what partners can achieve if they join forces to find new, relevant, creative, and innovative legal solutions for their business clients.
What is needed in today's market goes way beyond what any individual partner can achieve. So, break down those walls, stop only focusing on your own practice, stop worrying about origination-credits and start putting your client’s interests first.
Unleash the power of the firm and tap into other partners, exchange information & insights and cooperate to find new solutions for businesses that are the clients of your firm.
TGO training program
At TGO Consulting we are working with our clients to execute (training) programs that focus on educating partners on the impact Covid-19 will have on the economy. The programs stimulate partners to engage in meaningful conversations on business with their clients and foster sharing of market intelligence between partners. The better partners understand the impact on the economy and the more they know about their clients’ business model, the better they can engage in strategic conversations and the more relevant the advice they will be able to offer. As stated before: clients do not have legal issues, they have a business to run.
Under the present conditions companies will likely only spend money on lawyers who help them protect their bottom line.
The programs we have developed are conducted through video conferencing and no in-person meetings between lawyers are required. We have been running them for four weeks now and they have proven to be highly effective. If you would like to know more about these programs or are considering running them at your firm, please send an email to email@example.com and Lisa will answer all your questions.
For those of you interested, I will be doing a webinar for the IBA on Monday 18 May from 14:00 – 15:00 CET. Registration is free, also for non-members (but you are all members anyway). You can register here: https://www.ibanet.org/Avoiding-juristic-park.aspx
We are here to help
TGO Consulting is there to help you navigate the crisis. We have just finished writing a book on this topic, that we are now starting to edit. The book will be launched on May 18 at the IBA webinar. This book will be made available for free to all our clients during the month of May and will be available on Amazon thereafter. We will also continue to publish weekly articles on topics that are most relevant to you right now.
Our experience with law firms in China gives us a two-month head start in knowing what best to do. There will however remain many important unknowns and things can change really fast. This is where our unparalleled creativity has proven to be extremely valuable. We have a proven track-record to find effective solutions faster and better than anyone else. In the meantime, our TGO Consulting Research Team keeps monitoring the state of the economy literally 24/7 to ensure that our approach always remains fact-based.
Please do not hesitate to contact us to find out how we could help your firm navigate these challenging times.