The Art and Science of Law

Shouting "Fire" in a Crowded Law Firm

The prevailing model of legal "firefighting" must give way to one based on crisis prevention.




10:00pm EST

The term “fire drill” is often deployed to describe the crisis driven nature legal service delivery.  Sadly, that phrase may be even more apt than most people realize.

Spontaneous conflagrations of indeterminate cause are rare.  Instead, like most fires, crises accrue slowly, and start small.  They are only recognized suddenly.  Catastrophically.  And, like with actual fires, there are also two ways to fight service related crises: prevention and remediation.

Unfortunately, most lawyers still only focus on the latter.  But, who wouldn’t rather prevent the fire in the first place?  After all, prevention is cheaper and less traumatic.  The problem is that too many lawyers have positioned themselves as firefighters, or ‘remediaters.’  It’s a sexier (and, potentially, more lucrative) gig.  Legal firefighters have marathon drafting sessions, oral arguments, and “casts of thousands.”  Legal fire-preventers have records management, communication protocols, and statistical sampling.  I know . . . yawn.

The thing is, clients are beginning to look at how to keep the fire from getting out of hand in the first place.  They’re asking about technology and training, planning and protocols, documentation and design.  They’re expecting answers.  In turn, lawyers and legal support professionals need to recognize that legal project managers, while often masters of remediation, have tremendous value to add by preventing the fire drill.

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