Times New Roman, Coffee and Ditching Reason

One of my favourite things about being a lawyer is that legal work provides unending opportunities for problem solving.

As a youngster, I loved math best when we were focused on the solving word problems, and when algebra was introduced, I couldn’t get enough of it. Fast-forwarding to today…my legal practice consists primarily of hiring myself out to identify and analyze problems and propose a range of solutions.

I still love problem solving. That’s why two recent blog posts from SeyfarthLean Consulting CEO, Ken Grady caught my eye, both on this subject.

In The Arts of Coffee and Law, Grady writes about the bespoke approach to preparing a cup of coffee (the Jony Ive approach) and compares it to the way that legal services have traditionally been delivered. He notes that as there are many different ways to prepare and deliver a cup of coffee, with the key variables being people (i.e. coffee drinkers), their circumstances, their budgets, and their needs, so too there are many different ways to prepare and deliver legal services.

He concludes:

“There are many things lawyers do that we can’t do with technology right now and I’m not claiming I can get all of those things down to processes lasting a few seconds. But, we should not lose sight of the fact that there are many things lawyers are doing that computers could do in a fraction of the time and with consistently high quality.

We don’t all get Jony Ive cups of coffee because of the time and labor (expense) involved. But if you could get that Jony Ive cup of coffee in the same time it takes to get coffee from our local coffee shop, or even to make coffee with our office coffee machine, and if the cost was the same or less, wouldn’t you go for the cup of Ive joe?”

Reading this as I drink my morning coffee, the comparison resonates. It’s not a new idea but it is something that I know many lawyers continue to struggle with.

Grady wrote another post suggesting lawyers need to start taking a Jony Ive approach to the delivery of legal services, using design thinking to better meet the needs of clients. In Time for Lawyers to Think Like Ive, he explains:

“As lawyers, we can fight science and stick with 12 point, Times New Roman, single-spaced documents and try to force the world to conform. Or, we can accept how humans work and that visually engaging and stimulating materials will capture our clients. Our task is to integrate what we need to write with how we present it in ways that improve on the old. That is why I think learning about design is important.”

At its heart, design thinking is problem solving and should for this reason alone be one of the tools available in a lawyer’s toolbox.

Grady outlines a number of Ive’s key design precepts and suggests how these might be applied to delivery of legal services. Scandalously, he proposes that lawyers need to abandon reason when looking for new ways to deliver their services:

“…as Ive tells it, “To design something really new and innovative you have to reject reason.” Let’s apply Ive’s thinking to legal service delivery. Reason probably tells you to continue legal services the way you learned out of school, the way you have for the past 20 years, and the way that has led you to success at this point in your career. To innovate, you have to ditch reason and allow yourself to explore new ways of doing things. Manufacturers strenuously resisted the ideas of lean thinking, because reason told them they wouldn’t work. Today, manufacturers embrace lean thinking and wouldn’t go back.”

The time is ripe for new approaches to legal problem solving and how legal services are delivered. As #NewLaw and #AltLegal models are developed and grow worldwide, those unwilling to rethink their own approaches risk becoming irrelevant or inaccessible.

Why not enhance our legal problem solving skills with a design approach and apply both to reconsidering how to deliver legal services in ways that better meet clients’ needs for value, efficiency, certainty and quality?


  1. Interesting post. But I’m not sure if “[t]o innovate, you have to ditch reason and allow yourself to explore new ways of doing things” is accurate, i.e., “ditching reason”, or whether in the practice of law with its many procedures and rituals engrained in the entire process it is preferable as Pierre Trudeau had stated when discussing politics “let us overthrow the totems, break the taboos. Or better, let us consider them cancelled. Coldly, let us be intelligent.” “Intelligent” of course requiring both reason and understanding of both customer needs and the practice of law to change the process and procedures. Nevertheless, a thought-provoking post.