Legal Disrupted. A Case of the Innovator’s Dilemma

lawyer-450205_150 Scales of JusticeNo profession is immune from disruption. A business with a value of $400 billion per year is a attractive target for newcomers, ranging from financial institutions to startups. Can legal ward off its challengers? Not without changing.

“The Innovator’s Dilemma” refers to Clayton Christensen’s theory that successful companies are too focused on customers’ current needs and that they fail to adopt technologies that will fulfill customers’ future or unspoken needs. When the goose is laying the golden eggs, it can be challenging to focus on what happens after the goose is gone. Think of Blockbuster’s collapse to Netflix or Amazon’s decision to develop the Kindle. The question for the mammoth book retailer was whether they should dig in their heels and fight ebooks which threatened to cannibalize their hard copy book sales. Jeff Bezos was savvy to the Innovator’s Dilemma and chose to lead in ebooks. Today Amazon controls 67% of the ebook market.

But the Innovator’s Dilemma pertains to technology. The legal profession is not about technology…or is it?

For context, let’s look at the thoughtful internet debate over the past few weeks. The catalyst was the post, “The Profession is Doomed,” by Toby Brown, published in 3 Geeks and a Law Blog. Toby had participated in a National Conference of Bar Presidents panel on the future of the profession.

One of the panel members described a change coming in Washington State where the first licenses to Limited Licensure Legal Technicians (LLLT) will be granted this spring. An LLLT is a new non-lawyer legal professional who may advise and assist clients. An LLLT must meet certain criteria but can qualify with an associate level degree. Approval of LLLT was opposed by the Board of Governors of the Washington Bar Association but was approved by the Washington Supreme Court. Brown writes that the focus of the conference presidents and executives was on finding ways to kill the LLLT.

Brown left the conference that day convinced that the profession is doomed because those in power in the profession won’t drive change, leaving it open to disruption from without.

Another compelling post on this topic, “Big Law as Legal Fiction and the Lack of Innovation,” is written by Ron Dolin who is with the Stanford Center on the Legal Profession. Dolin looks at how Big Law firms make decisions and how they decide to innovate, or not.

Dolin points out that the stagnant growth in 75% of the AM100 contrasted with the rapid growth in lower margin legal services startups such as LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer is evidence that change in Big Law is needed.

Dolin references Prof. William Henderson of Indiana University Law School who commends the innovation of Bryan Cave, Seyfarth Shaw, and Littler Mendelson, yet estimates that “only 10-15% of large law firms have embarked on strategic initiatives that take into account the ‘New Normal.’” Henderson has warned of a train wreck along the lines of the Innovator’s Dilemma coming in Big Law in the next 5 to 10 years.

So why are Big Law firms moving slowly? Per Dolin, Big Law grapples with various paralyzing questions: Is change really needed? Would it best to see if a few firms fail before action is taken? How significant will the costs be? It’s easy to see that PCs make sense, but how does one know how far to take new technology? And, will the benefits of these new potentially expensive changes be realized after current partners retire? Dolin points to the partner system as deterrent to innovation in Big Law.

Our view is far brighter. Today’s solutions can enable traditional legal to become more nimble and cost-effective. As a matter of disclosure, our company, Mobile Helix, provides a mobile app designed specifically for lawyers which allows lawyers to work with DMS, files, SharePoint and email from anywhere. In essence, we enable lawyers to be more responsive to clients and to get greater value from their time.

Mobility is a huge gift to lawyers. Every day we support firms which are earnestly working to provide more productivity to their lawyers. As one legal IT director stated, the ROI on any ten or fifteen minutes which a lawyer can recoup on the go is high and the personal satisfaction is great.

Mobility reduces costs because time is used more productively. Lightweight mobile solutions are a very effective way for law firms to drive efficiencies. There are technologies, including ours, which can be adopted today without massive investment. The ROI begins on the first day, not years from now.

Toby Brown did legal a service by raising the flag on this subject. Legal need not be doomed. But innovation and action is required…and the clock is ticking.

–Maureen

Mobile App Blacklisting – An Exercise in Futility

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The theory goes something like this. Mobile apps are the unregulated Wild West. Users are unable to make informed choices about which apps are “safe” and “appropriate” for work and therefore cannot be trusted. IT must assume the worst and create a “blacklist”1 of risky applications that that cannot be downloaded to any personal mobile device “approved” for work. This ensures the enterprise remains safe and free from infection while allowing employees to work using personal mobile devices. IT can sleep easier at night, employees are happy. Well, not really…

The App store had 1.3 million applications available for download in September 20142. This number is growing rapidly, from 1 million in October 2013. Then there is the Google Play store, the Windows store and others. How in practice can the IT team of any average company stay current on this vast app offering, blessing the good and weeding out the bad apples? Well they cannot. As fast as IT blacklists, enticing new apps appear. IT has no choice but to blacklist indiscriminately – preventing employees from using many powerful and completely benign mobile apps to do their jobs. An exercise in futility indeed. So, is app blacklisting worth the considerable effort required to implement and enforce?

Not only is app blacklisting an exercise in futility, it is also directly contrary to the compelling reasons to embrace enterprise mobility in the first place. Recent research from Citrix3 shows that two of the five most commonly blacklisted mobile apps are Dropbox (for file access and sharing) and personal email. Does blacklisting Dropbox and personal email access help or hinder the enterprise?

Employees need access to their enterprise files to work. Accessing personal email on a personal mobile device is a critical need. Why are users downloading Dropbox and personal email to their personal mobile devices? Is it so they can maliciously infect enterprise networks and threaten sensitive corporate data or is it so they can work more and be more productive in their personal time while outside the office? The answer is pretty obvious.

The majority of employees are motivated by good. They want to work as productively and effectively as possible. They want to use their down-time efficiently and get work done. This is why they are willing to use personal mobile devices that they purchase and pay for themselves to do so.

Blacklisting is a brute force approach that provides a false sense of security for IT. Blacklisting penalizes the most committed and valuable workers, punishing them for wanting to be more productive using their own personal mobile device. Something is very wrong here.

We have written previously about the “Legal Mobility Disconnect”. App blacklisting contributes to this significant productivity gap. The answer is for IT to lead and provide users with the mobile tools they need to do their job and get work done. This starts with file access and email. These IT provided solutions must be intuitive and easy to use. They must be secure and they must be readily available without imposing unreasonable restrictions on personal mobile device use outside of work.

If this post resonates, please explore Link by Mobile Helix and see if it offers you an alternative and more practical path to sustained, secure enterprise productivity. For those who remain unconvinced and plan to continue blacklisting, then you may want to read about Sisyphus4, who was engaged in a similar exercise in futility thousands of years ago – in his case for eternity.

We would love to hear what you think so please let us know.

– Matt

Notes and Links:

1. What is Application Blacklisting?
2. Statista App Store Statistics.
3. Citrix Mobile Analytics Report – February 2015.
4. The Myth of Sisyphus.

ABA TECHSHOW and the Mobile Lawyer

ABA Techshow 2015 Orange Logo

Lawyers, if “60 Apps in 60 Minutes” brings a smile to your face then you are likely a fan of the ABA TECHSHOW. “60 Apps” is one of the most popular sessions each April at the TECHSHOW. The iOS apps session will be standing room only. The apps session is followed by “60 Sites in 60 Minutes,” featuring the most useful websites for lawyers today.

This year TECHSHOW has 15 tracks with several geared toward the mobile lawyer, including “iPAD,” “Mobile,” and “Advanced IT.” TECHSHOW is especially valuable for lawyers in solo to medium-sized firms. If you are responsible for IT, litigation technology, or marketing, TECHSHOW is a wealth of information for you. TECHSHOW sessions will illustrate how to optimize today’s technology, for example:

  • Introducing Your iPad into Your iPractice
  • Litigate on the iPad
  • How Lawyers Can Effectively Engage in Social Media

The ABA TECHSHOW is a great place to meet new and long-time peers. The networking is as good as the content.

Our company, Mobile Helix, will be at ABA TECHSHOW again this year. Please stop by booth 113. We will be happy to show you our LINK mobile app for lawyers. LINK gives you access to your email and files in one encrypted app. With LINK, it’s easy to find a document, review it, and then email it to a client from your smartphone or tablet, no matter where you are located. LINK gives you a great mobile experience and lets you be productive even when you are not in the office.

See you in Chicago, April 16th to 18th!

–Maureen

Apple Defies Gravity… Again

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As the story goes, the young Isaac Newton was sitting in his garden when an apple fell onto his head and, in a stroke of brilliant insight, he suddenly invented the theory of gravity.1 The story is almost certainly embellished, though it has found its place in popular culture, and has been taught to generations of young receptive science students ever since.

Winding the clock forward to 2015 brings us to a whole new and different kind of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). On January 29th Apple became the most profitable company in history. This is an incredible achievement. Examining how Apple has achieved this milestone is even more amazing.

Apple’s sales and profitability are driven by sales of the iPhone (currently 69% of revenues), and more specifically by the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. During the last quarter, Apple sold a staggering 74.5 million iPhones. This equates to 830,000 devices per day or 35,000 per hour for 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. This represents a 46% increase in iPhone sales year-on-year, while simultaneously increasing the iPhone average selling price by $50 to $687 per unit. For reference, average smartphone prices have declined from $440 in 2010 to an estimated $275 in 2015. Apple defies gravity… again, indeed.

To quote from Motley Fool2 “That Apple can deliver both massive sales volume and rising prices in the context of rapidly declining industry prices speaks wonders about Apple’s competitive differentiation and the booming popularity of its new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models”. Many congratulations to Tim Cook and the whole Apple team on this achievement.

As companies get bigger, continued rapid growth gets much, much harder. It is therefore tempting to assume that Apple’s incredible performance cannot be sustained. The Economist sums the problem up well in “Apple Reigns Supreme”.3

However, Apple’s recent history suggests otherwise. Apple will launch its much awaited (and much hyped) Apple Watch in April. Will this new device completely redefine the watch and show us all the critical things that we have been missing until now, or, will it fade as a niche luxury product that only appeals to the wealthy and tech obsessed?

No one knows for sure. We will have to wait and see. However, I suspect that we will be reading similar glowing coverage later this year as Apple Defies Gravity… Again.

Stay tuned….

– Matt

Links:

1. Isaac Newton and the apple.
2. Motley Fool on Apple’s Results.
3. The Economist – “Apple Reigns Supreme When It Comes to Making Money”.