Jumpstarting Legal Exploration
By: Daniel J. Brick
Traditional law firms thrive on exploitation of existing knowledge to maximize profits in the short term. Arguably, design thinking and exploration of new knowledge for future exploitation in the legal market remains untapped, save a few key players, like LegalZoom.
Traditional law firms, especially those specializing in a single area of the law, almost exclusively rely on exploitation. Their area of law may aid this business model due to perhaps the limited nature of the specialized area of law in which they practice. Due to the fact that these limited areas of law rarely evolve, or become updated, other than the occasional annual minute change, these firms see no need to explore new knowledge areas. These firms practice within their limited areas of law like a well-oiled machine, and their work-products and client interactions remain efficient and fluid.
Many business corporations, however, have made strides to strike a balance between exploitation and exploration. The balance between the two may not be 50/50, and more than likely exploitation is favored due to the short-term benefits/profits associated therewith; however, the importance of exploration remains well-known because when new areas of knowledge eventually emerge, the business can then exploit that new knowledge until it is either exhausted, or a new area of explorations yields another area to exploit.
Unlike business corporations, or other like entities, law firms exist predominately in a finite nature. The partnership agreement ends when a partner dies. The very structure of a traditional firm hinders exploration because the members participate solely for the benefit received during each member’s lifetime. Corporations, on the other hand, may exist beyond the lifetime of any one person that worked for the organization.
Without delving into the substantive types of exploration that could be achieved, in order to promote exploration within the legal market, the structure of a law firm needs to be conducive to an existence beyond the lifetime of the partners. Only then will law firms invest in the long-term, perhaps to secure a legacy-type brand like that of most major corporations.
THE CLIENT IS ALWAYS RIGHT.
BRIDGING THE COMMUNICATION GAP BETWEEN CUSTOMERS AND LAWYERS
By: Natalie Schultz
The threshold of the legal profession begins with empowering the customer. It is an essential, yet underestimated element to a thriving legal organization, creating limitless potential and thriving value.
A mystery the legal industry needs to solve, yet currently overlooks is consumer perception. “Consumer perception,” refers to a customer’s experience with legal representation, their perception of lawyers, and their knowledge of the law. Since the adversarial system is too unpredictable for consistent outcomes, the focus should be on the variable that can be controlled: the customer.
The first step begins by reshaping the customer’s perception of lawyers. Customers are unclear of what lawyers actually do in practice, mainly because there is no opportunity to gain insight and knowledge on this process. Too often lawyers keep customers at arms length, blocking any hope of building a meaningful, trustworthy relationship. A shield exists between lawyers and customers due to this lack of transparency. Consequently, it should be no surprise why lawyers are frequently viewed as self-motivated, secretive, and manipulative. Why should customers think otherwise?
Piece by piece, effective communication and interaction with a customer accounts for a crucial, vital role in a lawyer’s representation. This begins by breaking down the secretive barrier of what the customer’s perception of what a lawyer does in practice and transform it to a working relationship between a lawyer and the customer; making a lawyer’s representation as transparent to the customer as possible. Connect with customers on an interpersonal level by actively engaging them in the litigation process. This can be accomplished by inviting questions, sharing knowledge of the legal process (allowing customers to sit in while their lawyer works on their case), informing customers where to find statutes, and sharing (possibly with a pamphlet, or workshops) what public resources are available to answer legal questions and to learn about rights.
If empowering the customer is an essential element to create limitless potential and thriving value for every aspect of the legal profession, then why does it continue to go unrecognized?
Law firms currently do not have research and development departments, but they should. Law firms can substantially benefit from a business-related model. Having a team that conducts experiments and engages in market research would not only help lawyers better understand their client’s specific needs, but it would enhance a lawyers ability to analyze the law. If firms recognized the potential and value this department would bring, it would thrive because the list of benefits is essentially limitless.
Although perception itself cannot be controlled, the experience a firm sets in place and a lawyer provides can shape consumer perception. Trust, reliability, reputation, and credibility cannot be purchased; it is formulated by human intuition. Intuition is shaped by the environment, presentation, and human connection. Surrounding legal services around the customer can rapidly shape the perception of the legal profession as a whole. It would transform a customer’s uncertainty into a safe place of unstoppable, meaningful legal representation. Turn a customer’s doubt of service into desire for more, skepticism into security, and vulnerability into invincibility.
Empowering the customer with a hands-on role will: (1) make the customer better equipped with knowledge of the law (which increases the chances of the customer seeking a lawyer in the future, (2) create a better understanding of what lawyers do, and (3) bridge the communication gap between the customer and the lawyer. At least by having the option for customers to actively play a role in the resolution of their case will create the idea of transparency, which ultimately shapes consumer perception. No matter what the outcome is- if the customer was apart of that process, or at least invited to be, they will walk away with an uplifted mindset about the legal industry, that firm, and their lawyer.
This mystery is critical and crucial for the legal field to recognize. Without customers, lawyers are inevitably valueless. As the saying goes in the restaurant industry: a happy customer will tell a friend about their experience, an upset customer will tell five friends about their unpleasant experience. Reinventing the service provided to customers (which begins with creating a research and development department like business models currently have) will bring in new customers, bring customers back, and ultimately skyrocket profits. The future of law depends on this opportunity because the client is always right.
Abductive Reasoning, Design Thinking & The American Way
By: Karen Francis-McWhite (@accidentalhippy)
I’m going to start with a potentially radical statement: design thinking is the barely acknowledged cornerstone of the last fifty to sixty years of social change. At their hearts, the Civil Rights Movement, the Free Speech Movement, Second Wave Feminism, the Native American and Yellow Power Movements, even the Gay Rights Movement have individually and collectively demanded an abductive response to the pressing questions about who we are as a country and what do our rights and responsibilities mean when previously ignored and silenced voices demand, take or occupy a seat at the table.
When we want to figure out what truly “is” in the world, we look around, look for repeated patterns and based on what we see, we deduce that the dominant pattern must be what “is.” This is deductive reasoning.
When we try to make sense of what we experience, we look at a specific instance, and determine that the experience is universally true. This is inductive reasoning.
Problems often arise when people think they are being deductive, but what they see when they look around is actually a very narrow slice of the larger social life our laws are meant to enable and protect. These people are inductive and they may not even know it.
Abductive reasoning, in contrast, combines deductive and inductive perspectives and demands that each develop an openness to discover new patterns and possibilities that neither deductive nor inductive reasoning could arrive at on their own. Abductive reasoning in the context of mid to late twentieth century American culture suggests that who we are and who we can be as a nation is not a static reality based on established patterns and history (deductive). Nor is it based on extrapolating the limited experiences of marginalized peoples (inductive). It is quite possibly something new, a hybrid of both.
Understanding the American social experiment through abductive reasoning invites us to look at the experiences of other people as new-to-us, yet valid “data points” that can and should challenge our respective accepted understandings. This process of openness requires a spirit of empathy on our parts and a willingness to see our treasured understandings fall. But in their place we can work with our neighbors and fellow citizens in a more empathetic and sincere way to create a new world of possibilities for the United States of America that will inspire and rally us all.
Design thinking our society, much like design thinking a business, requires that we first look upon our society as a mystery: who are we (particularly in light of our diversity of geography, demographics, creeds, etcetera)? Then with a focus on abduction, we have to truly see and hear each other before we can determine which patterns of definition predominate. When we do this, we find patterns that challenge us, and even some that can liberate us. Finally, we can work together to define and delimit who we are … now. Because at the heart of design thinking, be it in a business or a society, is the recognition and appreciation of the fact that things change. Whether those changes are productive often is determined by the extent to which we maintain the cycle of self-examination and adaptation.
In Design Thinking, Abductive Reasoning allows a designer to develop a hypothesis based on all available evidence. Legal professionals apply this skill daily.
By: Brian Pike (@BrianCPike)
Design thinking and legal analytical reasoning are two unique schools of thought. But are they really? There are many overlaps in how these two schools share a common class: abductive logic.
Teaching this class would be the American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce. To Pierce, abducing a hypothetical explanation, X, from an observed circumstance, Y, is to surmise that X may be true because then Y would be a matter of course.
But what does that really mean? In Peirce's own words, this is a method of describing how we "guess" about a circumstance.
In the legal context, all law students are taught to read a set of facts and to try and hypothesize about the most plausible explanation. At its core, this is a form of abductive reasoning. The law student is observing all available evidence and forming a hypothesis. In legal abduction, the inference from effect to cause and the application of the known facts to the unknown is what drives a legal hypothesis.
In design, "[it] is always about synthesis - synthesis of market needs, technology trends, and business needs." During synthesis, designers organize, manipulate, prune, and filter gathered data into a cohesive structure for information building. "Synthesis reveals a cohesion and sense of continuity; synthesis indicates a push towards organization, reduction, and clarity."
Synthesis is an abductive sensemaking process.
Abductive logic allows for the creation of new knowledge or insight - C is introduced as the best hypothesis for why B is occurring; however, C is not part of the original set of premises.
Design Synthesis is a way to apply abductive logic within the confines of a design problem. The constrains of the problem act as the logical "premises" and a designer's life experiences begin to shape the abduction. As described by Peirce, "[t]he abductive suggestion comes to us like a flash. It is an act of insight, although [an] extremely fallible insight. It is true that the different elements of the hypothesis were in our minds before, but it is the idea of putting together what we had never before dreamed of putting together which flashes the new suggestion before our contemplation."
Because the design process is iterative, previous experiences help shape the evidence that goes into future abductions. These abductions help shape the hypotheses that are applied to a design problem - most specifically at the "definition" stage.
As Roger Martin describes it, Abduction is the "logic of what might be." It differs from deductive logic, which is the logic of what must be due to the fact that deduction reasons from the general to the specific. Inductive logic, or the study of what is operative, reasons from the specific to the general.
Peirce's fascination with the "logical leaps of the mind" or the "flashes of inspiration" help drive a different process of applying all available evidence to hypothesize a problem.
As Roger Martin describes it, the best bet is to strive for a balance between induction, deduction, and abduction. A healthy diet of varied thought, especially in the definition of a problem, can lead to the most satisfying result.