Choice Confusion

The legal industry has been behind the curve for adoption of technology.  That’s been a fact since the day I started in private practice and was probably spending the GNP of a small country on tippex as I corrected and then corrected again my typewritten errors or rewound the dictation tapes with the pointy end of a pencil.   Every now and again innovation talk compels me to write.  I wrote this back in 2012 and here’s my thought of today:

It’s undeniable that the legal world is modernising.  It may not be at a pace that makes everybody happy or replicates other consumer services but we’re seeing a more vibrant marketplace that is introducing concepts of customer journey mapping or design thinking that were unmentioned even 5 years ago.  People are thinking more actively about different business models that answer  problems, provide different working environments and ways of serving customers. The push for innovation has led to a plethora of start-ups and a wealth of investment although my sense is that its still weighted towards solving the problems of big law than the everyday consumer.  As I read and listen I’m asking how many are stand-alone solutions, iterations of previous products or capable of collaboration with other tools and technology services.  I’m wondering how easy they’ll be for the user to adopt and the how many challenges will be knocked off the list with the one solution. I wonder what would happen if the bigger players were able to harness and reward small acorn innovation to help speed up time to market and reduce the number of component solutions in the puzzle.

From a place of virtually no choice we’re now served up choice that is the equivalent of being seated at a restaurant and handed a menu so large that it obscures our dining companion.  We’ve gone from the 3 course set menu to an A2 fold-out that requires section to section navigation across regions or cultures.  I may solve the problem by (a) pushing the boat out and going with something that makes me look chi-chi and experimental (Insta photo opportunity mandatory) or (b) falling back on an old favourite with comfort that I will get what I know and the ease of comparing old experiences with new.  If I’m really in a head-spin I can opt out of any decision making, screen shot the menu and wine list and send it to my mate who knows.  She likes making these kind of decisions and will give me something challenging but backed up by a bottle of wine with a picture of a horse because she knows this kind of thing makes me happy.

Alex Smith, Reed Smith LLP’s Innovation Manager, recently shared a visual on Twitter that shows innovation activity.  It highlights the significant focus on contract and the multiple cross-overs which rightly Alex labelled as ‘a spaghetti ball’.  Some law firms have skilled resource to navigate and spend time picking products and services apart to determine the right fit or to flush out the reality from aspiration as they strive to improve ways of working.  My guess, however, is that many do not (or those that do could spend their time in different ways) and the choice instead of being liberating becomes a burden.

‘Choice confusion’  sounds like a challenge for these modern times.

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Visual provided with the kind permission of Alex Smith.

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