What inspires me the most about practicing law is helping people. In many ways, it is a lost art. Coming out of law school I was too focused on doing “big deals,” like venture capital financings and initial public offerings. The glory and excitement of working on major transactions and the rush of getting them closed within tight deadlines made it easy to lose perspective on what is important and why I went to law school in the first place. Deep down I had a feeling that I could make a difference, that I could change the world, and that, in a nut shell, I could help people.
Over the years, I have discovered my true passion. As a business lawyer, what I enjoy the most is solving problems that have a positive impact on people and their businesses. Raising capital to help an entrepreneur develop new technology. Advising a start-up on how to allocate equity among founders. Structuring a distribution agreement that facilitates a strategic partnership. Helping business owners to structure the sale of their company to ensure a comfortable retirement. Helping parents to secure a commercial loan to enable the succession of their company to their children. It is not about the money. It is not about the intellectual challenge or complexity of the transaction. It is not about winning or losing. It is about the people.
The greatest satisfaction I get from practicing law is helping people. It is not that I’m willing to work for free or that I don’t care about money. Money is a measure of success (not the only one) and enables the continuation of my work. But the importance of my work as a lawyer is the impact that I have on people.
I don’t think I am alone in this feeling. The best lawyers that I know are not the ones focused on the money or power or legal knowledge. The best ones are those that are focused on the people. It is with this philosophy in mind, that I founded Indigo Venture Law Offices. As we say on our website: “people first“.
When I first tried to explain our firm’s philosophy, a fellow lawyer, Frank Maniscalco, called it, a “law firm with a heart.” I liked that description. It is a nice sentiment. However, just having a good heart is not enough to be a great lawyer or solve problems for clients. There has to be something more. And with that we started to explore what this new firm would be or should be.
Although the Indigo Venture firm was started in 2006, it was not until my partner, John Koenig, joined me that we started to really develop our “Indigo Venture” concept and what it means to put people first. This new approach led us to develop a new business model for our firm.
What we knew was that the practice of law was changing. The advent of technology and the Internet made it easier and faster to produce documents and enabled lawyers to work in smaller firms and from remote locations. The increasing numbers of lawyers made practicing law more competitive and put downward pressure on pricing and revenues. The dotcom crash and the subsequent recession made certain areas of practice less profitable at the same time as computers and the Internet opened up new opportunities. Being cognizant of these changes, what we wanted to do was to build a different kind of law firm: one that embraced change rather than resisting it.
It has taken about two years for our thoughts and concepts to evolve into what we now believe is a clear vision for the future of our law firm, and, we hope, for the profession. It started with the concept of “Integrative Law”.
What is Integrative Law?
I come from a long line of lawyers. My father, my uncles and my grandfathers (on both sides) were lawyers. When I think back to the way they practiced law 40 or 50 years ago, they played the role of “trusted advisor.” This old-style approach was more humanistic. As a business lawyer, my father had strong relationships with his clients. He was their friend and confidant. By developing those relationships, my father knew all about his clients’ businesses and provided expertise and wisdom that went far beyond the letter of the law. He was not only their advisor; he was also their friend.
Over the years, lawyers have moved away from playing the role of trusted advisor. This is partly because lawyers now tend to over-specialize and partly because their billing rates are so high that clients can’t afford the extra time (or lawyers are not able to write off the time) required to develop a trust relationship. As a result, lawyers today spend more time processing documents or researching legal issues and less time getting to know their clients or acquiring the broader perspective necessary for solving problems.
Our firm takes a different approach: First, we try to understand the goals of the client. Second, we get to know the nature of their business. And, third, we apply our legal skills in the context of the business to achieve the goals of the client. This we call the integrative law approach.
Similar to integrative medicine, we take an “integrated” or “holistic” approach and apply alternative methods to the practice of law. We did a google search and found relatively few references to the notion of integrative law. openDemocracy describes integrative law as a term “used to describe a movement in the law which is also known as transformational law, comprehensive law and holistic law.” This was not very enlightening. We were actually surprised at the lack of usage of this term online and few, if any, useful definitions. So, we decided to create our own.
As our first attempt, here is our proposed definition:
“Integrative Law is the practice of law that recognizes the importance of the relationship between attorney and client, focuses on the goals of the client in the context of their specific circumstances, facilitates the delivery of legal services, and makes use of all appropriate technology, knowledge, and professionals to achieve the client’s goals in an ethical and cost effective manner.”
As this is an initial introduction of the term, we are completely open to the thoughts and comments of the legal community as a whole. What do you think of this definition? What is your impression of the words “integrative law”? How would you define it?
When I think of my father’s law practice and his traditional role a trusted advisor, I think of it as a more “humanistic” or “holistic” practice, which could be viewed as the original incarnation of integrative law. This traditional-style of practice we call “iLaw 1.0″. The “i” in “iLaw” stands for “integrative” and the 1.0 refers to the first version of the concept.
In developing a vision for the law firm of the future, we conceived of a new business model that integrates technology into the practice of law and leverages the Internet and social networking. This new approach, we refer to as “iLaw 2.0″. And with that our new model for practicing law was born.
iLaw 2.0 is what this blog is about. In future posts, we will attempt to detail and develop, in practical terms, our concept for architecting the law firm of the future. And we will share our successes and failures of building a new style of practice as they unfold.
We intend that the iLaw 2.0 model not be a “flash in the pan” or a simple abstract statement. We have developed a very broad and thoughtful set of principles and methodologies that we will discuss in this blog. The iLaw 2.0 concepts extend to every aspect of building and managing a law firm, as well as practicing law. We will also set standards that will ensure the humanistic (or holistic) approach is built into the firm culture. In many ways, much of the iLaw 2.0 model will be the opposite of traditional law firms. Instead of building a firm based on the control of proprietary knowledge and systems, we will build a firm based on openness and sharing of legal knowledge that continually improves our practice and, we hope, the profession.
This is just the beginning…
Roger Glovsky is a founding partner of Indigo Venture Law Offices, a business law firm based in Massachusetts, which provides legal counsel to entrepreneurs and high-tech businesses. Mr. Glovsky is also founder of LEXpertise.com, a collaboration and networking site for lawyers, and writes blogs for iLaw2.com and The Virtual Lawyer.