Check The Pedigree

“Check the pedigree” is a phrase I am often heard to say, but I have learned that it means different things to different people. I have been on both sides of the table, buying for and selling to legal services organizations. I can, with confidence, say that one of the first questions asked by legal service organizations is: “who else is…” Meaning that they want to know if any other “pedigree” organizations are using the service or product. Checking the pedigree is even more important than the actual qualities of the product itself, because often the discussion ends with the lack of pedigree. As a consequence, you will notice that products marketed to law firms often contain, in their marketing, long lists of “clients” who have already purchased the product or service. You will notice, too, that law firms often will market themselves with list of “clients” that use their services and products. It really is a cult of pedigree and, in my opinion, it has been taken too far.

Having said the cult of pedigree has gone too far, I am compelled to say that there are benefits to “checking the pedigree”, because pedigree shows a line of descent, a record of progression. What pedigree is not useful for is as a measure of success or realized benefits. And when I say “check the pedigree”, what legal professionals often hear is: read the list of “clients” – instead of what I said, “check” the pedigree, emphasis on the “check”. Why do legal professionals have a bias to the pedigree and not the checking?

Lack of pedigree has been turned into a negative. Lack of pedigree, on its face is meaningless and should not be given weight either way. Innovation has no pedigree and that is where legal services organizations often lack the “guts” to do their own analysis and not rely on other people’s “press releases”. I was involved in a “pitch” to one of the wealthiest men in Southern California. He liked the product, but he hated the legal services market. He was very clear that the legal services market was not innovative, late adopters, difficult to work with, and in general not worth the effort to make investments in. These observations come from a man who made his fortune as a pioneer in workflow software, a very foundation of modern litigation support software. This gentleman went on to advise me to adapt the product to any other market.

Third party investment in products and services for the legal services market would bring so much “simplicity” to the complexity of the delivery of services. But because of these calcified characteristics, cult of pedigree and overall lack of innovative risk, investment in innovation is stifled. Legal organizations need to adopt earlier and be the laboratory of innovation. The collaborative “risks” are not as great as the overall loss created by the lack of third party investment and innovation in the legal services market.

I am saying, as I always have, check the pedigree – but I am also saying this is just one not very reliable data point and should not be given pivotal emotional weight. Those organizations that are open to collaborative innovation may find themselves with a substantial competitive advantage. I wonder though if legal organizations can overcome their current reputation among those who hold the keys to that potential.