"Doubt is the key to knowledge." Persian Proverb
Law firm overhead expenses outpaced revenue in 2019 and are forecast to continue to do so in 2020, but investments are not being made across all business functions of the firm. Instead, law firms are mainly investing in associate pay and decreasing spend on library overhead expenses. It’s vital to think critically now more than ever.
When it comes to managing legal information resources for law firms, often hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars are at stake. With multitudes of hybrid methods to deliver legal information today, it has become business-critical to examine the status quo in an agnostic fashion. With so much money involved, all firms should review their current choices with an open mind and determine if more profitable options might exist.
An agnostic, when not applied to religion, believes a neutral and factual approach is the right method for obtaining the truth. Additional effort is required to find the answer(s) or solidify the one(s) that we have.
For example, eliminating either Westlaw or Lexis is a difficult decision, yet >55% of large law firms have done so at some point in the last three years. What about Bloomberg? These questions should be examined at least every three years. What was right 2 or 3 years ago might not be correct today.
Law libraries running well can yield a large return on investment that often goes unnoticed. It is important to understand what the library is doing right and what changes, if any, should a firm make to improve knowledge management and the delivery of legal information resources. There is no 'right answer'; nothing is cookie-cutter. All firms are unique in culture and legal information needs are always evolving. All of this should be considered, carefully and agnostically to optimize output and profitability.
The agnostic approach begins with questioning every past decision - taking nothing for granted. Don't accept answers like "because that's the way we've always done it" or "everybody is doing it that way" as a valid reason to do anything without further research.
When we look at a situation from every angle, with thought and imagination, the more holistic the view becomes. It's important that we recognize and are aware of our biases and work to maintain a neutral approach. This means we must clear our minds and start with a fresh perspective. Some ways to take an agnostic approach:
- Don't let partners and vendors dictate your business decisions and processes by looking only at one resource for information.
- Be in control of your expertise, strategy and business decisions. Perform due diligence and investigate the market.
- Take a partner and vendor-neutral approach during due diligence; this will empower you to be ideally informed.
- Informed decisions lead to better decisions and better business results.
- Better business results make you more valuable to the organization.
Law firms like any business must exist in a constant state of agnostic re-evaluation in order to keep up with the rapidly changing world.