In the beginning, we solved problems but did so inefficiently and unpredictably. That was Old Law. Most clients don’t like Old Law because they are under budget and performance pressure.

Then we learned to be efficient and predict the cost of solving a problem. This was New Law. Most clients embraced New Law because it helped them with their budget and performance pressure.

The problem with solving problems efficiently and predictably is that there are diminishing returns. While there is always room for improvement, you get to a point where sustainable improvements are marginal at best. Herbert Stein famously said, “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.” This truth is often stated as “Trends that can’t continue, won’t.” The trend of increasingly efficient handling of problems can’t continue.

Even as efficiency improvement wanes, law departments face growing demand on their resources. Businesses continue to grow, but law department budgets don’t. Businesses expand to new geographies and markets, but law departments don’t.

To do more with less, law departments must eliminate demands on their time, attention and resources. Ignoring problems is not an option.

It seems an intractable problem, but there is solution, and it is found in a lesson of aging.

When I was a child, there were childhood fights and I wanted to win those fights. As a person of age, I don’t want to win fights, I want to avoid them. Don’t get me wrong, some fights have to be fought. But fights should be fought because doing so furthers a strategic objective. Problems are just like fights: some can’t be avoided, but those that can be avoided, should be.

The answer to the growing problems law departments face is prevention. If we learn to prevent problems, we will be able to say”

Then we learned to prevent problems from starting in the first place. This is Next Law. It allows law departments to be strategic assets in the growth of the business, adding value instead of simply being a cost center.

What does Next Law entail? More on that soon.