The Legal Practice Model Canvas

law practice strategy Apr 08, 2016

A bit of a mea culpa here: This is a post I started working on months ago and then never published because I didn’t think I’d gotten things quite right. As longtime readers will recognize, this is fundamentally inconsistent with the Lean Startup principles I espouse–better to put the darn thing out there and see what people think about it than to let it languish while I noodle on potentially unimportant details.

And with that explanation, here I post my version of the Business Model Canvas for lawyers and law firms that I’m calling the Practice Model Canvas.

It is useful for a few different scenarios: it is a great alternative to long-form business planning when you’re thinking about hanging a shingle for a new law firm, it is useful for scoping out ideas for launching a new practice area or legal service offering, and it is a fantastic way to think through productized legal services like flat-fee, subscription, or portfolio offerings.




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Understanding your Legal Services Business Model

I just left the Washington State Bar's "Future of the Practice" meeting and there was some great discussion about ways to increase access to legal services. If you aren't familiar with some of the steps that the Washington bar is taking, including their creation of the Limited License Legal Technicians (LLLT) role, they (we—I'm a WA bar member!) are on the cusp of some solidly innovative work to evolve the practice of law.

One of the things that came up repeatedly in the meeting was the notion that most lawyers simply don't have business models that can profitably support clients at the lower end of the resources spectrum. That simultaneously strikes me as true and insane. How is it that lawyers can't seem to meet the demand of the majority of people who need legal services?

One answer is lack of efficiency, and I think that is a big part of it. While I still believe that cost control is not the final answer, I do think that a law practice that runs efficiently—that is...

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Kanban For Lawyers: Getting Started

kanban for lawyers Feb 08, 2015

Recently the ABA's Law Practice Today Magazine published my article The Dawn of the Agile Attorney. In it, I profile several lawyers, some practicing attorneys and others who have gone on to legal tech careers, who have adopted Agile methods in their work and lives.

Reception to the article has been great, and several people have asked me for resources on learning more about Agile. One the one hand, there's no shortage of information online about Agile and its subsets like Scrum, Kanban, and Lean Startup. On the other, much of the available info is specific to the needs of software teams and developers.

I'm working on a backlog of article ideas for Agile techniques that I (and others) have specifically adapted for use by lawyers, but I want to get started by discussing the Agile methodology that I think is often the best and easiest-to-implement entry point for attorneys (and other professionals) who are new to Agile: Kanban.

To that end, I've started writing a book titled, wait...

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The Two Keys to Lawyer Profit (Spoiler Alert: Cost Control is Not One of Them)

It seems like far too long since I've revisited the Grand Unified Theory of Legal Value™ that inspired me to start this blog in the first place. I got a nice reminder, however, from an Inc. Magazine article this month titled The Two Keys to Profit. (unfortunately it appears to be print-only).

The article is a quick one-pager, but it is loaded with important truths that Lawyers should embrace, starting with,

Companies that want consistent high profit should do two things: Emphasize better products or services over lower prices, and focus on growing the top line rather than obsess about cost cutting.

This squares nicely with my assertion that Cost Control is Not the Final Answer. But how can it be true when lawyers continue to feel price pressure from clients who have more choices, more information, and therefore more purchasing power than ever before?

Well, first we can just trust the experts. The article quotes Michael E. Raynor, author of The Innovators Manifesto and The...

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A Nice Balanced Indemnification Clause

I feel like like I've been reviewing a lot of painfully one-sided contract clauses lately, so I was pleasantly surprised when I came across this little beauty. Indemnification is something everyone looks for, especially for IP, so it always baffles me when I wind up going round and round with opposing counsel trying to make indemnifications flow both ways: You cover me for the things you bring to the relationship, and I'll cover you for the things I bring. Why is this so hard?

I could quibble with a few of the word choices below, but overall it is a comprehensive yet simple and balanced indemnification clause. So I thought I'd share.


(a)     Neither party assumes any liability to third persons with respect to any intentional or negligent act or omission of the other party or any employee, agent, or contractor of the other party, in the performance of this Contract.

(b)     Each party agrees to indemnify and hold the other party and...

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A Tale of Legal Waste in 10 Tweets

law practice strategy Aug 20, 2014

I heard the following story from a friend this week, and it struck me as representative of a common frustration with lawyers (in this case outside counsel).

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Legal Ops: Doing the Thing Wrong or Doing the Wrong Thing?

Since my post on legal project management, I’ve heard a lot of stories about LPM initiatives that didn’t deliver as promised. Because I argue that Agile project management is superior to traditional (or waterfall) project management for legal work, much of the discussion has focused on whether a switch to Agile techniques would improve adoption and outcomes.

This basically comes down to a “you’re doing the thing wrong” argument, and I hold to my assertion that if you plan to implement legal project management in your law department or practice, Agile is a superior option. But it also occurred to me that there is another, possibly more likely explanation for a legal team’s failure to benefit from project management: What if they’re working on the wrong thing?

Before I elaborate, let me first introduce a new tool: the Theory of Constraints.

The Theory of Constraints was developed in the 1970s and 80s by Dr. Eli Goldratt, a...

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Legal Project Management: You’re Doing it Wrong

Legal Project Management is quite the buzzword these days. Of course the concept has been around for years, but the recent publication of the ABA's The Power of Legal Project Management has renewed the push for lawyers to adopt the project management techniques that have been used in the business world for decades.

Here's the problem: the project management methodology being marketed to lawyers—whether by the ABA book, an upcoming ALI CLE, or any number of consulting firms—is outdated. Not only that, it isn't especially well-suited to the dynamic and sometimes volatile nature of legal work.

Before I go further, let me first say that I think that legal project management of some sort is not just a good idea, it is essential to running an efficient and effective law practice (or law department). And by effective, I mean one that is focused on delivering Customer Value. In the old world of unchecked hourly billing, project management may not have made much sense since the...

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Understanding your Client’s User Stories

law practice strategy Apr 04, 2014

My thesis so far: You have a greater opportunity to increase customer Value by delivering more Benefit than by lowering customer Investment. If customer Value = Benefit – Investment (my original theory), then it is easy to see that lowering Investment (cost control) can have a noticeable impact on Value when the initial Investment is large. But you can also see that the opportunity for Value improvement through cost control diminishes as the Investment shrinks.

I've also discussed the usefulness of Lean tools for cost control, especially identifying and eliminating Waste in your legal workflows (I even made a handy poster). But I cautioned that eliminating Waste for the sake of your own efficiency is a poor long-term strategy for improving Value: First you must understand what Benefit your work is adding for your customer, then you can scrutinize any activities that are not extrinsically beneficial.

So how can you better understand your customer's desired Benefits?


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The Relationship between Value and Profit

law practice strategy Feb 24, 2014

The basic premise of my search for the Grand Unified Theory of Legal Value has been that Value is the gap between what you Invest and the Benefit you receive in a particular transaction. Otherwise stated:

Value = Benefit – Investment

My discussion so far has focused on Value from the customer's perspective, although a friend pointed out that my post on Waste conflated the customer's Investment with the provider's Investment. He has a good point, and I think the best way to differentiate the two is to introduce the concept of Profit.

Fortunately, once you understand Value, Profit is simple:

Profit = Benefit – Investment

Yep, Profit and Value are the same, but Profit pertains to the provider while Value is experienced by the customer.

As with Value, it is tempting to think about this equation in monetary terms. Do so at your peril. Yes, money (a Resource) is a component of profit, but so are many other factors like a sense of accomplishment, motivation, and even fun. I'll...

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