Asking the Wrong Question

Asking the Wrong Question.

I recently asked a lawyer
whether his firm was pursuing a relatively new idea and his response
was, “how many other large law firms are doing that?” My reply was “why
is that a relevant question?” He was taken aback and offered no answer. 

setting was a social event, the lawyer involved in his firm’s
communication efforts, and the question was “has your firm considered a
blog?” I have previously posted
about firm-branded blogs, so will not cover that territory again. The
interesting issue here is how firms think about change and new ideas.

law firm technology managers who suggest new initiatives frequently
face the question “how many other firms are doing that.” Most
businesses evaluate a proposal based on benefits, costs, feasibility,
and risk. The analysis includes what competitors are doing but that’s
not the starting point. In three years of strategy consulting at Bain
& Company, I do not recall a client or consultant ever starting
with that question.

In well-functioning markets, that is the
wrong question. When customers have ample choice and switch suppliers
to achieve lower cost or higher benefits, producers constantly look for
ways to gain share by doing a better job pleasing customers. So
producers eagerly assess new ideas that might provide a competitive
advantage. When suppliers fail to embrace the new, they suffer
(consider, for example, Digital Equipment or Detroit car-makers).

the legal market, however, it’s hard to identify instances where the
market has penalized firms for being late adopters. Firms may lose a
client or two if they lag, but this does not lead to folding. The only
explanation I can offer for why firms can repeatedly start with the
wrong question is that their customers are simply not demanding enough.

Maybe I’m completely wrong… I’d love to hear from anyone who
has a better explanation, either why this question is the right place
to begin thinking about change or why law firms can keep asking if it’s
[Strategic Legal Technology]

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