By Dr. Thomas J. Venardos
The consensus appears to be that the beginning of the twenty-first century will be driven by innovation, diversity, the entrepreneurial spirit, technological changes and the new global economy. What does this mean for lawyers and their firms? Basically it means a shift in thinking to globalization and the impact this has on their business practice. They will need to learn different types of business and professional skills to remain competitive. Furthermore, it causes them to think about re-inventing their professional practice. Obviously this will include practicing more business behaviors like marketing to a diverse clientele, being professionally efficient by using the latest technologies, and offering more competitive fees based on fixed rates rather than hourly rates. Global thinking implies adapting new behaviors to provide better business solutions and services to others.
Because we live in a diverse society and world where many different kinds of values and beliefs are promulgated, people many times end up in a conflict situation with others and need an objective person to assist them in solving the conflict. Consequently we see self-created tension that can be mediated by an understanding and observant lawyer who thinks differently. Diversity can have its own complex consequences, which requires professional attention.
Using effective communication in times of rapid change can be a lawyer’s best tool. With communication occurring at a very rapid pace through many channels, it is even more necessary for lawyers to communicate in a timely fashion. Many people are getting information via television, Web sites, chat rooms, newspapers, magazines, and even their friends and relatives. Information is in no short supply and it is almost ubiquitous. Therefore, lawyers are challenged daily, to communicate information through different channels and to different populations so they can remain competitive. Both the speed of communication and the accuracy of the information are critical to clients.
Lawyers live in a fast paced world with many kinds of professional colleagues. It is not uncommon to find lawyers and their clients using personal computers and having access to similar information and data. Because of technological advances business and commerce is changing on a monthly and yearly basis. Also, we are now being influenced by other countries that have different ideas and approaches to problems shared by all of us.
Today only a part of a lawyer’s education is completed in the university setting. Most of the other part is learned after graduating from law school and can include learning business strategies, marketing approaches, using technology effectively, and learning to service diverse populations. In essence, lawyers must learn to be life-long learners and change with the times. This includes thinking globally.
Global thinking challenges lawyers and law firms in several different ways. It becomes critical for them to plan and resolve several issues related directly to global thinking:
The new generation lawyer has much to consider and much to do when thinking globally.
Below is a list of web sites that lawyers may want to acquaint themselves with. These sites demonstrate how lawyers are beginning to use e-commerce in their everyday practice.
Some of the major E-business areas are listed below.
As you enter the global arena you will be advised to practice key global business behaviors. These behaviors provide direction in developing commitment to global thinking. Success usually comes when you invest both time and money into this effort.
There are three basic avenues to global thinking and practice. The first is that of seeking a more diverse client population than you currently have. Look toward a mixture of gender, ethnicity, and age. The second consists of going outside your practice to other sub-cultures within our society. Some examples are Native Americans, Hispanics, Afro-Americans, Asian Americans, etc. The third is that of going outside this country to provide your services and do business. This may be a little more complex since it requires a change of environment as well as methods of practice.
It is necessary to learn about the cultures and societies you are attempting to do business with. It is advisable to take the initiative by reading about another’s culture and asking relevant questions about their society. You will have nothing to offer until they ask you for your services or see a need to purchase them. Being proactive and timely makes for a good impression. It is also helpful not to fit the stereotype of a typical lawyer, so that you can put your energy into developing a good, strong long-term relationship. Accepting total responsibility and being accountable, without making excuses for yourself or your firm when things do not work out, can go a long way in developing this relationship.
Around the world there is common agreement on what are effective business values. These are universal, because without them, business could not be successful and would not endure. These values support long-term business relationships. They help companies prosper. They provide guidelines for human interactions. Simply put, the values include:
Like it or not, we must adapt to a new generation of thinkers. This new generation has as its underlying premise that law practice and law firm practice is a business. Therefore it must follow business practices and have business values. This also includes e-business strategies, diverse cultural awareness, the entrepreneurial spirit, and the re-inventing of professional practice to incorporate all of the above ideas.
Below is a list of skills that accompany the thinking mentioned above. These can lower business costs and increase productivity.
You have several choices. You can ignore the rapid change around you. You can cope with the world as it changes. Or you can become accountable for your professional behaviors and begin the transition and growth process in your professional life. This process for most people takes several years to complete since it is a mostly self-taught process.
You will need to take action if you choose the latter. It will cost time, some money and much effort. Below are some suggestions for you to follow if you decide to take action now.
Dr. Thomas J. Venardos is an adjunct management consultant with Olmstead & Associates, Legal Management Consultants, St. Louis, MO, and President of Venardos Management Group, Organizational Performance Consultants, located in Albuquerque, NM. Dr. Venardos may be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.