"We are becoming part of a larger market of professional services, in which the legal problems of clients are regarded as ‘business cases with a certain legal component’"ERNEST GRAMATSKY, PRESIDENT AT GRAMATSKY AND PARTNERS LAW FIRM, TALKS ABOUT TRANSFORMATIONS IN THE GLOBAL PROFESSION
— How is the expertise of a modern law firm structured?
— The processes of globalization are increasingly changing the landscape of the legal industry. Clients are looking for a competent provider of complex service without dividing it into "legal" and "non-legal" parts. They turn to us for audit, project management, financial accounting, sales optimization, business physical security, asset tracing, data protection, cyber security and investigations, development and transfer of IT technologies, financial compliance, international logistics, communication with agents, registrars and banks in different parts of the world. In many projects, the technical side and the actual legal side are barely distinguishable. No-one is interested in our disclaimers any more: you either scuttle the project or you don't. This now applies to the borders between jurisdictions. The following collocations are gradually appearing in our expertise; lawyer-innovator, lawyer-auditor, lawyer-manager, lawyer-developer, lawyer-developer, lawyer-analyst, lawyer-marketer, lawyer-coach, lawyer-creator, etc.
— How do these changes affect the legal services market?
— There is an industrial turnaround, we are finally beginning to look at the world through the eyes of customers, change its narrow legal optics to economic ones. You see, lawyers have always been selfish in their legal sense. For us, client industries exist only in so far as they can be broken down into legal projects, practices and billable hours, and outside of the visible part of legal acumen there’s only a dark unknown economic universe out there, which is theoretically constantly expanding. Now we are becoming part of a larger market of professional services, in which the legal problems of clients are regarded as "business cases with a certain legal component". Feel the difference. A fundamental change of the market paradigm is behind this slick substitution of concepts. We find ourselves in the same arena with auditors, crisis managers, marketers, management consultants, business coaches and other coaches. This is what has been happening in developed markets over the last decade and it is gradually coming to us. Ultimately, we will all work in one large services market, and there will be no "natural attorney monopolies": someone simply evolves and will do work better, and someone will not adapt to the new conditions and just disappear.
— How large are these processes?
— It's actually a global transformation of the legal practice, performance of models of legal services distribution, which is the case in recent years. Limited resources force us to prudently manage what we have. All our "blue oceans" have long turned into one entire "Sargasso Sea". Firms no longer have space for self-waste. It forces us to be creative and alive. Legal expertise is becoming less "corporate" and inward-looking, and increasingly acquires the features of ordinary business procedures, through which optimization of costs, increased flexibility, expansion of capabilities and leverages take place. We found ourselves in a completely unfamiliar ethical and economic reality.
— Won't these challenges be fatal for law firms as market players?
— Law firms as basic institutions of the professional market will remain, in one form or another, but they will become some cultural trigger for the creation of larger umbrella brands that will combine law, audit, management consulting, IT, engineering, development, capital market, financial services and collection. These will be real full-service conglomerates, in which the share of revenues from legal services themselves will inevitably decrease. Although I'm sure that law firms themselves will be the core around which all this infrastructure is formed, drawing from it the means for self-expression. We may be losing the profession as it exists in its current form, but if we move from the paradigm of loss to the paradigm of advantage, we will find untapped potential in this future.
— You describe a completely new market reality…
— Precisely, market because... actually, do we have a legal services market? There’s a car market, a mobile devices market, a building materials market... If you put the expression "legal services market" in this line…
— As in a logic task: which is the odd one out?
— Well, the odd one out is evident. It is impossible to call it a market without offending business laws. Too many local "providers" used to avoid market connotations and see something sinful in equating legal services with perishable goods. We do not even have a decent vocabulary to talk about the legal market in economic categories. Historically, the macro-market environment is developing in this direction: from individual art to handicraft, from craft to industrial business. Business requires a standard list of terms identifying legal products, and we have still some "legal assistance" in the law and on sites. Resentment over the concept of "legal services market" has become common. Some lawyers say that they do not sell anything, they provide legal assistance that is so non-standard that they believe it is a unique art, and art, as you know, is not for sale. It takes my breath away: we’re waiting for handicraft manufacturing to develop into an industrial conveyor, into a fully-fledged business, and meanwhile, the dominant discourse is a backward movement: from craft to art. You see: in the blockchain era we are still proud of our shovels, and we even measure who has the longest one.
— Sometimes it seems that information technologies is our everything…
— Technologies have led to a sharp increase in digitalization. Today, everyone is concerned about the latest trends, namely client personalization. All global leaders collect and analyze big data about behavioral activities only in order to customize the offer for each individual client. It is clear that in the very near future everything will be automated, which in principle can be automated, with the help of data and Artificial Intelligence. But automation itself has never saved anyone, as a shift in consciousness is always important, and it is primary. Tomorrow, robots will learn how to buy and sell, prepare food, create websites, prepare memoranda, register and liquidate companies, teach and treat people, fight and resolve disputes. They will replace a person in many processes. What can a person offer in return? Things that are (yet) beyond the control of machines: trust, empathy, support, inspiration and motivation, intuition and paradoxical thinking, the ability to find a common language with other people and understand their needs, negotiate, and make ethical decisions. These behavior skills will always be in demand. You don't need to concentrate on what is now trendy (bots), what is fashionable (blockchain) and what will change tomorrow. What is necessary is investment in timeless benefits that customers need today and which they will need in 20 years when the main vacancy in the market will be a "human". Therefore, in particular, it’s so important now to fill a legal product with individuality, the unique feature that characterizes your way of thinking. Knowledge is more important than profit, and imagination is more important than knowledge. Creative ideas are the main currency of the future.