Disruption has occurred from the beginning of time and moves in fast and furious ways today. With each disruption opportunities are presented. With each disruption, certain components of life and business, as we used to know it, die. Treblaw, LLC was born out of and thrives on the disruption occurring in the world of dispute resolution.
Four years ago, I walked away from the relative comfort of an established law firm into the world of entrepreneurship. I left because I saw a world full of opportunities to arising from the ongoing disruptions occurring in the practice of law. I saw new ways to deliver essential services to clients without limitations arbitrarily place upon me by partners who shunned the opportunities created by disruption. I’m sure many entrepreneurs ventured off on their own for precisely the same reason.
Four years later, my firm is focused squarely on capitalizing on the opportunities to serve clients with each new disruption. Thriving on disruption by leveraging it for the benefit of clients. The firm I left, died in the disruption. Unable or unwilling to embrace the change brought on by disruption.
The recipe has been simple: Take a refined set of finely hone legal skills and leverage technology and opportunity to deliver those skills to clients.
Diplomacy or Combat?
What is the essence of the bespoke skills of a lawyer who focuses his or her practice on dispute resolution? They fall into two general categories. The first is diplomacy. The second is combat. Finely honed skills in both areas and the instinct and background to discern when to engage in diplomacy and when to enter into combat are the essence of bespoke dispute resolution skills for lawyers.
Those skills are honed over time. I know that my ability to determine when and where to engage in each skill has and continues to develop with each new dispute and each new opportunity to learn. While I had technical skills and courtroom instincts thirty-four years ago when I started practicing law, my diplomacy skills were not well developed. Likewise, technical skills and instinct provide the basis for being a skilled dispute resolution lawyer – time, training, and battle scars, from self-inflicted wounds and from the nature of the business, produce a honed and skilled trial and appellate advocate.
The success of Treblaw, LLC as a provider of legal services in dispute resolution speaks to finely honed skills that have endured the test of time.
The Importance of Leveraging Technology
The ability to be agile and technologically sound in a rapidly changing technological world is critical to survival of law firms and especially of the dispute resolution process. I have spent my professional career learning, practicing and fine tuning the skills that are the essence of a lawyer who specializes in dispute resolution. Those skills alone are not enough. Today lawyers, even very skilled lawyers must be armed with technology that facilitates the delivery of legal services to clients in ways that in even the recent past could only be filled with additional support staff.
Too many large and even medium sized firms fail or refuse to see the benefit of firmwide technical sophistication – or at a minimum – competency. Rather, they impose additional burdens upon staff to complete work much more efficiently and effectively done by computers. Investments in outdated systems that do not add value but actually get in the way of delivering what clients truly seek in legal services cripples many law firms.
Fortunately, we have had the agility and vision from the start of this firm on technology and strategic partnerships that have each enhanced my ability to spend the vast majority of my time on the matters for which my skills are honed as a lawyer. The bespoke components of the practice of law, things that only a skilled lawyer can do, the rarest talents, the essence of being a lawyer. Those things most valuable to clients.
From our practice management software, to state of the art courtroom presentation and document review software, we focus on those tools which best support delivery of legal services. Any firm that fails to do so will die as each disruption is the legal services area builds upon the disruption of the last.
Skills that Support Clients Not Parties to a Dispute
Leveraging technology not only provides the basis for providing better services focused upon dispute resolution, but also supports the use of the skills honed in the courtroom and in the negotiation of settlements to provide bespoke legal services to individuals and businesses not currently involved in a dispute. For example, from countless battles over business contracts, risk identification, contract negotiation and drafting flow. The range of potential results and understandable terms of agreements are much easier to draft after seeing what happens when the parties think they have agreed to one thing and a judge or jury determines they have agreed to something altogether different.
The same skills also help individual entrepreneurs and business partners to see methods and opportunities to control risk and communicate or agree in simple and understandable ways even if the problem is complex. When the knowledge of methods for achieving those results are leveraged with software that accelerates accurate business agreements a whole new set of services are available to help clients avoid disputes in the first instance.
There was a time, not that long ago that I would scoff at alternative dispute resolution provisions in contracts as a waste of time leading up to eventual battle. Not any more. I now encourage diplomacy on the front end of nearly every dispute. It is more cost effective and the parties, rather than a judge or jury, decide how the dispute is resolved – a method where the interests of both could be served in ways that never happen when a matter has to be resolved by a judge or jury.
I now appreciate much more the skill sets of skilled mediators and have found that the skills honed in courtrooms also provide the skill set, for those like me who are so inclined, to train and implement as mediators with the ability to function as a diplomat rather than as a judge. Those skills are critical in many complex disputes. In those cases, money awarded or actions imposed by judges and juries are inadequate solutions for many complex disputes whether the disputes arise out of business or personal matters.
The skill set necessary to be a mediator that facilitates resolution of matters that can only be remedied by money is a different skill set from that needed to be a mediator in complex disputes. Simply shuttling positions on money or imposing evaluations on parties is not enough in those cases. The level of diplomacy necessary is different in kind. Rare is the mediator that can serve in either setting.
The Road Ahead
Disruption will continue in the world of legal services and in the broader business world. Disruption has created some of the fractures we see in our society. Disruption and fractures have and will continue to create a very real need for lawyers skilled in diplomacy and combat who leverage those skills with technology to organize the chaos of disruption and build bridges over the fractures caused by disruption. To reach that end lawyers will need to have well developed legal skills – skills that only a lawyer can bring to help in the discovery and implementation of solutions to problems. Those with the necessary skill leverage available technology as a tool to better provide clients with bespoke services. These are not platitudes. They are very real. If your lawyer cannot tell demonstrate skills at diplomacy and combat and the ability to discern the time for each. If your lawyer cannot tell you how they use technology to better serve you as clients. Then, the time for considering the use of a different lawyer has arrived for you. If not, watch out for the next disruption, its victim may be both your lawyer and your lawyer’s clients.