A. QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"Another cliché could have applied at the moment, and nobody would have faulted Nurse for abiding by it: Don't fix what isn't broken. That is not Nurse's style. He tinkers and experiments, even when things are going well." (Eric Koreen, discussing Nick Nurse, coach of the 2019 NBA Champion Toronto Raptors in The Athletic.)
While many law firms continue to have very successful years, the provision of legal services and customer expectations is changing rapidly, and the best-positioned firms moving forward will be those that tinker and experiment, even as they continue to meet or exceed their financial expectations.
The Athletic is a great example of a new business model being applied very successfully to an industry (journalism) facing significant challenges. They also have by far the best Raptors content of any platform, and I would highly recommend subscribing if you're looking for great sports content.
B. ARTICLES TO READ
1. What Law Firms Can Learn from the Raptors' Analytics Department
What Drives Kyle Lowry's Unexplainable Basketball Genius (Kevin Arnovitz)
""When I first got the job, the analytics guys came to me to tell me how much Kyle affects winning," Ujiri says. "They made me understand." To the Raptors' analytics group, Lowry was the most valuable player on the roster, even if a cursory glance at the team's stats page didn't distinguish him. It took some selling, but they showed Ujiri that during Lowry's one season in Toronto, the Raptors were decidedly better when Lowry was on the floor. Lowry-led units consistently found higher percentage shots, particularly at the rim; were constantly in transition when he was at the controls, be it after live turnovers or rebounds; and contested opponents' attempts more effectively."
Why it Matters:
One of the key drivers of the Raptors' success this year was the play of their point guard, Kyle Lowry. While Lowry has at times been heavily criticized by casual observers – especially after games in which he shoots poorly – most data-driven fans (especially those that read The Athletic) are well aware of his contributions to winning that rarely show up in traditional box scores (which omit most of the important modern statistical measures that are attributed to success). The Raptors were able to acquire Lowry several years ago because his former employers failed to properly appreciate the value he was bringing to the table.
Law firms face a similar challenge. Their talent is typically evaluated by traditional metrics (mostly related to the billable hour and realization rates). While these metrics can be helpful in certain cases, they fail to properly capture the true value that many key performers bring to the table. For example, a lawyer may be incredible at client retention (keeping fans coming to games) or may be an incredible mentor (locker room presence) whose impact on younger lawyers (rookies) is such that they flourish in their careers and are likely to stay with the firm longer (sign a contract extension). For law firms to properly evaluate their talent (players), they need to consider which behaviours they want to reward and which metrics don't always show up in their billable hours (in the box score), but are important contributors to the firm's bottom line (winning).
2. Fear of Change – Judges and the French Government
France Bans Judge Analytics, 5 Years in Prison for Rule Breakers (Artificial Lawyer)
"In a startling intervention that seeks to limit the emerging litigation analytics and prediction sector, the French government has banned the publication of statistical information about judges' decisions – with a five-year prison sentence set as the maximum punishment for anyone who breaks the new law."
Why it Matters:
In 2017, the French government passed a law that required companies with more than 50 employees to guarantee workers the right to disconnect from technology when they leave the office at night. As somebody who responds to emails at all hours of the day, that's definitely a law I can get behind. However, the recent prohibition on the publication of statistical information about judges' decisions is another matter altogether. Clearly, there is a concern that judges (being human, after all) aren't always consistent with their decisions and can be subject to bias. And this legislation appears to be an ill-conceived attempt to reduce transparency, such that the mirage that judges are perfect and always make well-reasoned and logical decisions can continue. Unsurprisingly, the new law has been widely ridiculed. As one commentator noted, "A legal system must be open, transparent and always open to scrutiny, the second it uses criminal law to shelter it from criticism and review, it ... becomes dangerous."
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