By Patrick J. Lamb
As a kid, my dad used to take me to watch tradesmen work. Bricklayers, finish and rough carpenters, tile setters, electricians, and others. The point was to pick up pointers, to learn from those with more expertise than my dad could share. I was hooked at that young age on the value of learning from those with the skill and wisdom I did not have. I carry this interest with me to this day.
As the father of young kids with an interest in music, I began reading business books at the bookstore near the store where music lessons were taught. I met many people—interestingly, never any lawyers—and I read a lot of business books. I remember learning about Six Sigma in a book about Jack Welch at GE, for example. I learned about marketing and consultative selling—the idea that if you worked with a customer to solve the customer’s problem, you might end up with a lifelong friend as well as a customer, but only if what you were selling was the best solution to the customer’s problem. I found these and many other business topics fascinating, and I pondered why these approaches that worked so well in business did not apply to the business of law.
Some years later, when I bought Apple computers for my kids as they reached the appropriate age, I became fascinated with the design elegance of Apple products. And Steve Jobs became something of an icon, particularly his “make a dent in the universe comment.” As we built Valorem from a start-up and radically new model firm to a highly respected innovative company and leader in the NewLaw/NextLaw movement, my colleagues and I were inspired to make a dent, if only in the legal universe.
Science teaches us that all things evolve. Or they end. While Valorem was highly successful and had developed extraordinary brand awareness, we knew that we could never scale it. My diagnosis was that we would never have the resources and the technology to grow it sufficiently to make the dent I was interested in making. It took a while to come to terms with that limitation, and I realized I could never really accept it. At the same time, the role of a lawyer was evolving from trusted advisor to solution designer and solutions provider. The latter of these roles required scale too.
Which leads us to Elevate. Elevate Services has a brand very similar to Valorem’s—great people, a believer in the power of technology, but it also had the brand of delivering great solutions. But most of all, we saw our place in the world through the same lens: Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. Like Elevate, we were inspired to see ourselves as the young Apple of law. So we figured out how we could work together seamlessly.
And that leads us to where I am now. Still blessed with the greatest partner ever—Nicole Auerbach. Working with Liam Brown and the wonderful team at Elevate. Working together on, among many things, Jeff Carr’s moonshot—reducing the legal spend at Univar, Inc. by 50%. Combining the power of design and process improvement and project management with the tools we bring—the power of After Action Assessments, Early Case Assessments, 10 years of successfully using alternative fee arrangements, and our skills acquired as successful litigators and the builders of a champion brand, Valorem.
This leads me back to the lesson I learned from my dad—learn from others. Take what you see successful people do—in our case, successful business people, and apply those lessons daily. Business relies on solutions design, great engineering, great processes, and on careful management of work so the right things are done the right way at the right time. Applying those and other key business lessons to the delivery of legal services is precisely what ElevateNext is about.
Patrick Lamb is not a typical lawyer. While he is a trial lawyer by trade and has litigated multi-million dollar cases in state and federal courts across the country, more recently, as a result of seeing how disruptive most litigation is to businesses, he has focused on preventing litigation. How? He and his partners began pricing using non-hourly methods in 2008 when most firms refused to even consider Alternative Fee Arrangements. Those that did simply relabeled discounted hourly rates as AFAs—and Patrick called out those efforts by writing and speaking about it. He also designed an arbitration system that focuses on minimizing the role of lawyers and forcing businesses to take a brutally honest view of likely outcomes.
Patrick is renowned for his expertise in designing new legal delivery models, pricing, and legal innovation. He has written two books on AFAs, the second of which has been called the “most influential book on AFAs” by a senior in-house lawyer for a Fortune 100 global company. The prior firm he and his partner Nicole Auerbach formed was identified by BTI Consulting as “one of 22 firms best at AFAs” in 2016, and their new firm, ElevateNext, was named one of the “Best Firms at AFAs” in 2020.
The founding of ElevateNext brought Elevate’s global reach, multi-disciplinary teams, robust technology, and process skills into the mix in designing solutions to customers’ business problems, and that is now an important part of Patrick’s current practice. While winning litigation is fun for the lawyers, avoiding litigation is best for the customer. And if litigation begins, its prompt resolution also avoids much of the wasted time, treasure, and attention that has become the common complaint even successful litigation causes.
Patrick is also a fierce proponent of Customer Experience. His focus began in 2004 when he began blogging about it as part of his award-winning blog, In Search of Great Customer Experiences, and his numerous Customer Service Awards (named 5 times to BTI Consulting’s Client Service A-Team) further, demonstrate the passion he brings to customer experience and delight. Patrick has spoken about CX, AFAs, and change in the legal profession countless times, in multiple countries, to many law firms and thousands of in-house lawyers. Patrick’s belief that success comes only from starting the design of services from a deep understanding of the customer’s business objectives is apparent in every engagement.
What Nicole Auerbach Says About Pat
- Fellow, College of Law Practice Management (2010 – present)
- Trustee, College of Law Practice Management (2016- present)
- Fellow, American Bar Foundation (2017)
- ABA Legal Rebel (2009)
- BTI Client Service All-Star MVP (2012, 2014-2017)
- 2018 Readers’ Choice Awards – JD Supra author
- Admitted, Illinois (1982)
- Member, Federal General Bar (1982)
- Member, Federal Trial Bar (1986)
Books I’ve Written
- Future Law Firm Business Models; Chapter 2 – “A world without lines means lawyers have to move beyond just law.”
- Alternative Fees for Litigators and their Clients (American Bar Association, 2014)
- Alternative Fee Arrangements: Value Fees and the Changing Legal Market (Ark Publishing, 2010)
And There’s More…
- Over 1000 posts at In Search of Perfect Client Service, www.patrickjlamb.com Columnist, ABA Journal New Normal Column (2010-present) www.abajournal.com/topic/the_new_normal
- In addition, Pat has authored numerous articles and book chapters on topics including client service, alternative fee arrangements and after-action assessments.
- Pat frequently comments on these same issues on Twitter @ElevateLamb.
At the Podium
Pat has spoken countless times in the United States, Canada and New Zealand before audiences of both in-house and outside counsel on client service, alternative fees, after action assessment, legal project management and change in the legal industry. Pat also has been engaged by several law firms to speak at partner retreats or meetings on the necessity of anticipating change and trying to benefit from it rather than merely reacting to it. From its inception in 2010 through 2015, Pat was a faculty member and curriculum designer for the Association of Corporate Counsel faculty for ACC’s Legal Services Management training workshop.
5 Business Books I Recommend
Because I often proclaim that law firms need to operate the way their business clients do, I am often asked if there are any books I recommend.
Here’s my current top 5:
- The Checklist Manifesto, by Atul Gawande
- Start with Why, by Simon Sinek
- Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, by Larry Bossidy
- Great by Choice, by Jim Collins
- The Apple Experience, by Carmine Gallo