Food for thought on keeping your law practice lean.

Saw an interesting article online the other day about a young lawyer in Brooklyn who specializes in servicing start-ups. The lawyer, Kyle Westaway, believes that certain entrenched components of the legal system are flawed and lawyers need to rethink how they do things to stay competitive.

Westaway believes a new model of law is evolving – and it involves applying lean startup principles and challenging the old norms – like the billable hour. Westaway thinks that in light of dramatic societal and economic shifts, the American workforce will soon be made up of three equal parts: 1) robots; 2) off-shore workers and 3) highly skilled labor. He believes even skilled professional[i.e. us lawyers] will lose jobs and thinks the legal profession will eventually look like “Turbo-Tax for law”.

Westaway, in light of his affiliation with start-up companies, looks at his clients and trys to determine what would work best for his clients. He runs his paperless office out of his Brooklyn loft. He doesn’t see the need for a fancy address and has no staff. When things get hectic, he uses a virtual assistant and outsources as needed. Westaway sees a lawyer’s role as providing a solution to the client’s problem. Although Westaway used to worry about revenue that is no longer a primary concern. It didn’t hurt that he admittedly was in the right place at the right time. He got to start and lead the conversation on social enterprise law on Twitter and other social networking sites. Additionally he is teaching a social entrepreneurship course at Harvard Law School in the spring.

Westaway’s projections as to the future American workforce are a little grim[I hope], but it would be foolish to think that certain aspects of the legal system are NOT going to change dramatically in years to come – just look at the number of commercials you hear hawking do it yourself incorporations. Small law firms and solos in particular would be wise to listen to Westaway. I unknowingly embraced the startup model several years ago when I decided to relocate, eliminate staff and upgrade technology. I wish I did it years ago.