WELCOME TO LAW PRACTICE. Whether you’re a regular reader or peeling back the layers of this onion, trying to get a feel for the first time what this magazine is all about, I am confident that you will find at least a couple of novel nuggets tucked within this issue. And so we have titled it the Big Ideas issue, following the assumption that there isn’t one single strategy that is the panacea for lawyers and law firms.
Though it’s unlikely that all of the tactics and concepts waiting in the following pages will be mind-blowingly shocking, it’s just as apparent that running a successful legal practice, as in life itself, very rarely requires an earth-shattering stroke of genius so much as a steady hand, an obligation to do right by your clients and a willingness to act on good common sense.
Lawyers love theory. If effectively running a law practice could be achieved solely by confronting business challenges with cleverly conceptualized philosophies, law firms would have overtaken multinational companies for revenue and earnings decades ago. Harkening back to Woody Allen’s dictum that “80 percent of life is showing up,” administering and expanding your law practice is instead an everyday test of diligent and practical execution. If plotting and scheming never evolves past the hypothetical into implementing real and meaningful action, your strategic thought will never be more than excellent intentions.
After all, if your marketing plan doesn’t ever get down to individual names and calendaring time to contact people, your time has been wasted no matter how genius your ideas are. Instituting an electronic billing system with state-of-the-art bells and whistles is merely window dressing if you fail to tackle paltry realization rates.
I would like to thank our thoughtful authors who contributed the incredible perspectives that constitute our Big Ideas issue. Amani Smathers offers her insight on the changing function of lawyering in “The 21st-Century T-Shaped Lawyer.” In “Icebergs and Sea Monsters in Treacherous Legal Seas,” Gerry Riskin has imaginatively likened the delivery of legal services to a maritime metaphor. Richard Granat and Marc Lauritsen bring us “Teaching the Technology of Practice: The 10 Top Schools” to reveal how some educational institutions are taking the reins to engage our next generation of lawyers in legal technology. Dennis Kennedy renews our entrepreneurial spirits in “The Productization of Legal Services,” making the case to develop nontraditional revenue sources. In a return to Law Practice, former editor-in-chief Dan Pinnington discusses the future of law firm structures in “The Future of American Law in a Global Village.” Finally, Tim Stanley reflects on providing open access to legal information in “From the Free Law Trenches,” in which he responds to questions posed by Law Practice Editorial Board member Nick Gaffney.
I welcome back our excellent stable of columnists, who again cover a panoply of topics, from disaster recovery and reputation management to the staying power of law firms and creating better online passwords. In addition, we are fortunate to welcome Judge Bernice B. Donald, the president of the American Bar Foundation, who outlines the results of the Foundation’s After the JD study.
Please read, digest and take to heart the practical nuggets. Then choose a couple, get your elbows dirty and actually implement them. Though it may take a year or two, you won’t be sorry for the effort.