30 December 2008

Practice: Motor Industry - Parallels with the Legal System

The University of Southern California held a conference at San Diego earlier this month on Leading Legal Innovation. It seems to have attracted some distinguished academics and a sprinkling of practising lawyers though, sadly, none from the UK so far as I can see.   

Susan Block has reported on what seems to have been one of the more interesting conference papers which was presented by Prof. Stephen Burbank of Pennsylvania Law School in yesterday's AMLaw Daily, "The Innovation Agenda: Are Lawyers Stuck in GM's Tire Tracks?". According to the report Prof. Burbank drew interesting parallels between the structures and attitudes of the US motor industry and legal professions. As we all know US car markers have problems as indeed do car makers everywhere including the UK.

Can parallels be drawn here? There are certainly similarities. Parts of our legal profession have done very well over the last few years so why fix it?   I think the answer to that is provided by Professor Stephen Mayson in his article "Referral Repercussions" which appeared in Counsel in July 2008:
"One thing I am sure about, though, is that the future challenge is not about the quality of legal services. There is no doubt that the legal profession, and the bar in particular, is well able to provide high quality advice and advocacy. The real challenge lies in clients who cannot afford that quality - or, more challenging still, those who can afford to pay choosing not to. No business has a future unless it provides services that its market is able and willing to pay for. Lawyers have to be quite clear that there is value in what they do for the fees they charge - whatever protestations they may wish to make about the client's (often misunderstood or self-denied) need for quality."
If we are to survive as a profession then we are going to have to change attitudes and business structures.

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