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Decomposing Compliance Counseling

One of many useful insights Richard Susskind has delivered on legal industry transformation is the idea of “decomposing” legal practice into discrete components of work, which allows one to think more clearly about how to identify opportunities to make the delivery of legal services more efficient. He aims this approach only at litigation and transactions, however, leaving out the third major domain of legal of legal practice–compliance counseling.

Compliance counseling is the neglected child in the legal practice family. Most law school course offerings emphasize litigation and transactions. Most law students decide soon into their second year that they want to do litigation or transactions. Most of the legal reinvention discourse is about litigation and transactions. But the reality is that there is a vast amount of legal work out there that is neither litigation nor transactions–it is compliance counseling. Believe me, I billed a lot of hours in this category as an environmental and land use lawyer, and there is no shortage of work like this in employee benefits, securities regulation, health care regulation, and the list goes on. It may not be as sexy as the courtroom or as glamorous as billion dollar deals, but it’s legal work so you can bet it’s going to be the target of optimization initiatives.

What is compliance counseling, and how would one “decompose” it to identify efficiency opportunities? The answer is not as clear as it is for litigation and transactions. Both litigation and transactions follow fairly standardized process paths. Litigation has its rules of procedure, and transactions center around the closing. Compliance counseling has nothing like that, and it comes in many forms. Yet, as my previous post on Neota + Littler reviewed, there clearly are opportunities to make compliance counseling more efficient, so it is worth devoting some thought to how to unpack what goes into it. (more…)

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