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President's Message

2 Aug 2018 9:13 AM | SALI Alliance (Administrator)

Standards tend to be an invisible, but very important part of any industry. And they impact all walks of life. But the big challenge of standards is helping the participants in any market understand what they are, why they should build them and how they will benefit all the players in a market.

The legal market is especially challenging given our preference for precedents and the legacy craft/guild approach deeply embedded in our industry’s culture. With all of the rapid changes occurring, both on the technology side and more importantly on the client side of our market, now more than ever we need to embrace standards as a foundational means for driving and adapting to change. 

SALI is the home for meeting that challenge, and we invite you to join the group and get involved in the standard development effort or join one of our committees.  SALI is not only driving significant advances for the industry, but creating a diverse community collaborating in a unique way.

A basic tenet of SALI is being an independent, objective, neutral third party. This is important since it needs to drive standards that meet the needs of all participants in the legal market. Historically, standards bodies are designed this way to avoid outcomes that favor customers or suppliers unfairly. We feel that SALI meets that need in a unique and compelling way.

To get where we are, took some doing. The first major task was helping market participants understand the need for standards, then convincing them that SALI was the best path to develop those standards.

I am leaving the descriptions of the What, Why and How to others from SALI. I highly encourage you to read those materials if you are new to legal standards. Instead, I want to talk about the passion behind the creation of SALI and the energy driving it forward.

As participants in the industry faced the challenge of pricing and scoping legal work, there was a sincere and difficult prospect of trying to find commonality around legal offerings to enable apples-to-apples comparisons of pricing bids. Attempts to move away from the billable hour demand the ability to price by the product (instead of the hour). Without common understandings of what those products are, it is very challenging to develop market pricing for both sellers and buyers. The lack of standard, accepted market definitions of these offerings is one major reason why non-hourly billing is still such a small segment of legal fees (about 16% per a recent survey).

The need for these standards seems obvious once you pose the challenge and need in this way.

So a group gathered to explore this challenge to see if there was enough support to meet it and to discuss how we should take it on. It did not take much discussion to come to the conclusion that there is a desperate need in the market for legal standards.

From there a core group formed to take on the task of establishing an independent standards body (SALI). Independence is core to successful standards effort since adoption will fall short if the standard does not meet everyone’s needs. Related to independence, is having a well-defined intellectual property (IP) approach. This allows all participants, especially providers, to contribute their IP safely. And it makes it clear any standards developed will be the IP of SALI, which makes them freely available to the market.

The core group has put in significant amounts of time, energy and thought. They all have brought passion and commitment to making this happen. Without this group, SALI would not exist today. So massive thank you’s go out to: Betsi Roach (and by extension the Legal Marketing Association ("LMA"), Oliver Yandle (and the Association for Legal Administrators ("ALA"), Adam Stock, Jim Hannigan, Justin Ergler, Keith Lipman and Mark Medice. This group has had their oars deep in the water for a couple of years making this happen.

So what next?

We need your involvement. Standards are not truly useful unless voices from all corners of the market get involved in their development. The core stakeholders of 1) Clients, 2) Lawyers and their Firms, and 3) Providers are obviously needed and highly valued. So if you come from one of those groups, we really need your time and input. Beyond those groups, there are many others who will bring valuable perspectives to the dialog, including academia, government (including the courts), associations, students, and many others.

Now is your chance to be part of something transformative in the legal industry. Besides, gaining this experience will be good for both you and your employer. For you, you will build valuable knowledge in enhancing your career opportunities. For your employer, it will demonstrate their commitment to innovation and service. I highly encourage you to check out the SALI website where you can learn all about this effort and become a part of this innovative project.

I look forward to connecting with many of you in this process going forward, getting your input and building this new standards community.


CONTACT: Toby Brown at tbrown@perkinscoie.com

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