I’m happy to announce The Kalon Law Firm, LLC is now open. I’ve been thinking about a new law firm business model for many years, but it is only in the last year, enrolled in an eight-class program on innovation at the GSB, that I felt confident in making it work. Stanford helped me think not just out of the box, but away from the box, and then without reference to the box. Much of the design of the firm comes from the process of design thinking, which begins with understanding what a client wants, brainstorming and experimenting with solutions, and then testing and rolling out the final product, which is actually never final, since it is always being improved.
Our business model is lean, is based on operational excellence, and seeks purpose, mastery, and autonomy for our people.
I was not alone in this process. We have an amazing founding team: Ron Houde and Demetra Turi. We are each strong in different ways and compliment each other. We have a flat hierarchy, so each of us has a voice and a stake in our process. And we are not alone. We have had many professionals guide us, help build us, and improve us.
We built Kalon to serve two groups: clients of the firm and employees of the firm. For clients (insurers and their insureds) we sought to understand what needs they are seeking to have fulfilled by a law firm. For employees, we sought to understand what they are looking for from employment, and to learn especially why so many lawyers leave the practice of law and how we could attract and retain our attorneys.
It seemed to me that law firm business models were based on old paradigms that were stifling innovation. William Gibson quipped, “The future is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed.” I set out to discover the thinking of the future and use it to build a better law firm. I think we have done that with Kalon.
People have asked me, “Who is Kalon?” No one. Kalon is not a person. Kalon is an ideal (it’s an old Greek word). We decided not to use the traditional choice of taking the name of a partner for a firm to signal we are innovative and we are about more than just the named partners.
We learned clients want their problem identified, a strategy to solve their problem, and follow through (including timely, to-the-point communication) at a reasonable fee. Employees want meaningful work, professional growth, flexibility, and camaraderie.
We looked for ways to use technology to meet these needs. Because we are new, we could build our infrastructure from a clean slate. We are leveraging technology to be digital, mobile, and have information at our fingertips (literally). Our files are digital (that makes us green too) and accessible from our laptops (which double as tablets). Our people can work securely anywhere there is a WiFi connection, eliminating commutes and needless “face-time.” In a sense, all the world is our office. Our tech gives us the ability to better meet client needs and allows our people work-style flexibility.
We eliminated the annual billable goal. Ask any lawyer in private practice if there is a part they hate and you’ll get the same answer: the annual billable hour goal. Keeping track of time is fine. It’s the march to meet a 2,000 annual billable goal that is so onerous, because it becomes the focus and measure of performance. At Kalon, we don’t have an annual goal. Instead, we have a revenue-based compensation system, which gives us flexibility and focuses us on the real performance metrics.
We decided to not have a traditional legal office, with a big lobby and cozy, expensive personal offices. Instead, we are based in a loft with a conference room. Our space is open, sunny, and filled with fresh air when we open our enormous windows. Sometimes our people work at the loft, sometimes they work at home. This week, I am working from New Orleans.
We have a core skills requirement and a professional development program so our people have basic competencies and will continue to grow.
We built our client services around a four-point matrix based on a model developed by a leading services company. We began with a focus on what our clients want, developed delivery systems (our people and our tech) to meet those needs, set quality standards (such as checklists and set procedures), and now work to integrate all three.
We also plan to contribute to the community we are based in. We will make an announcement soon. For now, I can say that we will be partnering with an amazing non-profit here in Hartford to add to their mission.
All of the above work together to draw quality employees, invigorate our team, and deliver better legal services to our clients for less.
We have been open for less than a month. Even though a great deal of thought and experimenting went into building Kalon, we are still innovating. Big things have small beginnings, and we are just beginning.
Christopher P. Kriesen
June 25, 2017