This has only the vaguest of baseball connections — the oh-so-common Moneyball analogy — but I know a lot of lawyers read this blog, so I offer it up anyway:
When asked whether his firm might reduce prices in light of the meltdown, Linklaters senior partner David Cheyne replied, “[Clients] might have doubts as to whether a firm is really able to deliver quality at a suicide rate.”
I’m sure Mr. Cheyne is a supremely capable person, and perhaps he was misquoted, but he appears to be saying: quality = cost.
So can Linklaters deliver quality at $900/hour, but not at $700? Does that even begin to make any sense? Of course, if Linklaters can find enough clients who will buy their hours at $900 instead of $700, they will sell their hours for $900–that’s how markets set prices. But what does that have to do with quality? If clients will only agree to buy hours at $700, will the firm’s lawyers go on a quality sit-down strike? The banks that lost nearly a trillion dollars, were they using the $700 lawyers; and did the banks that avoided losses use the $900 lawyers?
Or does equating quality with cost just obscure our understanding of quality? . . .
. . . In nearly every field our understanding of quality has moved from capabilities to outcomes, from generalities to specifics, from one-shot to systemic, from lore to metrics, from entitlement to performance. As in so many other areas, law is behind this evolution, and now must catch up.
Baseball sometimes gets criticized for being hopelessly behind the times when it comes to business efficiency — there’s a reason why a business writer like Lewis was able to see what was going on in baseball before most people in baseball did — but it has nothin’ on the private practice of law. Thankfully for consumers of legal services, there are some Billy Beanes out there trying to exploit the inefficiencies.