A New Leaf.

Hello. Welcome to the Brightleaf blog. We’ll be using this space to share our thoughts on how well-considered process and technology solutions can address the challenges and frustrations faced by business lawyers as they provide legal services to their clients in the changing climate for those services. We hope you’ll check in regularly and share your thoughts with us.

Our premise is simple.

Most business lawyers – both in-house and outside — ply their legal services through the medium of documents. Presently, there is a growing disconnect between the producers and the consumers of these legal services.

If you’re on the “producer” side of legal services, you may discount the disconnect. You might relegate it to the junkpile as the latest iteration of stale lawyer jokes about outside counsel or glib comments about the Legal Department being the company’s “Business Prevention Division.” You might dismiss it as line-item expense griping in a down economy. You may argue that any such disconnect is overblown or that the increasing chatter about it in trade journals and legal blogs is merely a tempest in a teapot…more transient than trend, more client perception than market reality.

But the growing reality is that your clients’ perception is your reality…or will be soon.

What’s the disconnect? Basically, it’s this: the consumers like the producers and they like the product; they just don’t like the production.

Whether you work in a business law firm or a corporate legal department, your clients (external for the firms; internal for the departments) actually like you. A lot. They’re impressed by the knowledge you’ve amassed. They depend on the skills you’ve acquired. They’re desperate for the judgment you exercise on their behalf.

They even like your work. For the most part, your clients interact with your work through the medium of documents. The Legal Departments we speak with are very happy with the work (read: documents) that their outside counsel produces. And the corporate executives we speak with are very happy with the work that their Legal Departments produce.

So, why are they unhappy? Whose fault is the disconnect?

(With apologies to Cassius) At Brightleaf, we believe that the fault lies not in our lawyers, nor in their documents, but rather in the accreted processes that lie between our lawyers and those documents.

Those who consume the legal services that lawyers provide recognize that those services are necessarily a blend of incisiveness and artisanal skill on one hand (the stuff that we all went to law school to do) and repetitive, reiterative processing on the other hand (the stuff that none of us went to law school to do). Consumers actually don’t mind paying for the former. But much of the cost and risk and delay and consumer dissatisfaction surrounding the provision of legal services stems from the inability of the producers to tweeze apart the two types of work.

If you doubt this, try a simple time-motion experiment for yourself the next time you engage in some nugget of document-based work. Take out a notepad, place it next to your computer, and record every process step from the moment you open the task until the moment you close it. Every. Little. Step. When opening a document from (or saving it to) a repository, write a “C” in the margin for each click it takes you to complete that step. If you’re re-typing anything (a filename, an address, a previously used arbitration clause, a closing date that you typed yesterday and have to retype now) that was typed by anyone before, slap a “T” next to it. If you jump between applications, append a big “A” on that process line for each application you use. If you have to print or fax or scan something, drop a big “P’ next to a notation about how many pages and whether you had to leave your desk to complete this step. If you’re taking a step that defies description, like having to re-name a document because your counterparty decided to employ its own nomenclature mid-deal or desperately collating edits made by five people in five different mark-ups of the same document on five different days, draw a star or question mark or an appropriate abbreviation (WTF?) to mark your efforts. You get the idea.

When you’re done, if you’re like just about every other attorney who has performed this exercise, you’ll be stunned by how much of the stuff you didn’t go to law school for that you have to wade through in order to get to the stuff that you did go to law school for.

This is what Brightleaf was built for: to resolve the disconnecting processes that have accreted between the producers and consumers or legal services…the time-consuming stuff that neither your clients nor you (nor, for that matter, your family) are happy about.

See? Something everyone agrees on.