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Topsy-turvy pyramids of commodity, commercial, and complex legal services

A thoughtful piece by Tony Williams (Legal Week, Vol. 7, Nov. 17, 2005 at 18) comments on how often there is a disconnect between the value a client perceives from a firm’s work and the value the law firm ascribes to its work. He illustrates the point with two pyramids.

From the law firms’ view, “rocket science” work is at the large end of the pyramid – much work deserves that rank, “high skill but routine” is in the narrower middle, and “commodity” services are the small tip – that is, not much that law firms work on is routine, no-brainer, sausage-making.

Clients, however, upend the pyramid. They view much of the work they send out as commodity, a somewhat smaller percentage than law firms consider “high skill but routine,” and only the small tip, the infrequent matter, to be “rocket science.” Williams holds it unlikely that rocketry (into which lands the oft-cited but rarely experienced bet-the-company drama) accounts for more than 10-15 percent of the UK legal market.

Williams knows his pyramids. Caveat solicitor.

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