There's a lot of buzz at the moment
Now before you choke on your cornflakes and wonder what anything that has the
word "game" in it has to do with a serious business like the law, let me first
explain what it is.
This was a part of the partnership
assessment centre that Simon wasn't expecting
The best definition I found was in a
white paper from a company called Bunchball (which is well worth downloading if you want to find out
more), which says:
"At its root, gamification applies
the mechanics of gaming to nongame activities to change people's behavior. When
used in a business context, gamification is the process of integrating game
dynamics (and game mechanics) into a website, business service, online
community, content portal, or marketing campaign in order to drive
participation and engagement".
Now while the gamification of legal
services may be some way off, and undoubtedly there are certainly a load of
"distress purchase" type services that it would be inappropriate to build some
fun into, I can see the application of the concept working in some areas.
Could it be used to make a huge due
diligence exercise more engaging for junior lawyers? What about a firm that
works with clients on repetitive, volume instructions?
However, I suspect the serious
business of injecting fun into legal work needs a little more thought, so for
the blog I'm going to explore how a legal career might look as a video game,
and in doing so, introduce some of the key concepts of gamification.
So learning, plus a little fun. Fits
with the theme of the post?
So let's start with some game
mechanics. These are the triggers and actions that drive behaviours and
contribute to motivation and engagement. Thinking about this in the context of
a legal career is pretty important, because let's be honest, there are plenty
of easier ways to earn a living.
Starting out at University, the
first game mechanic you'd encounter would be challenge.
This is manifested in a number of different ways, from the intellectual
horsepower needed (I remember thinking I'd never "get" trusts and equity!) to
the maturity needed to start planning your career early, challenge is a dynamic
which is likely to continue throughout a career in the profession, and in my
view one of the reasons that being a lawyer can be such an enduring vocation.
Even before you get to university,
you'll have met another game dynamic which may also continue long into your
working life - the concept of a leaderboard. Does law attract
competitive people, or is it simply that you need to be able to survive
(thrive?) in a competitive environment to succeed in the profession? The nature
v nurture debate isn't for this blog, but aim for a career in law and soon
you'll be stack ranked by A-level grades, outside interests and other
achievements. The leaderboard continues through law school as the competition
for training contracts and then jobs continues, at which point the challenge
ramps up as you realise you need a whole new
set of skills and competencies.
Being a gamer myself (first game
console was an Atari with Space Invaders, Pacman and Asteroids!), the concept
of "levelling up" is one that's familiar to me and I
absolutely get how addictive that dynamic can be. The concept of levels
translates pretty well to what has to date, been a fairly linear career path
followed by lawyers.
Get law degree (level up!)
Pass law school (level up)
Qualify as solicitor (level up)
Promoted to associate (level up)
Make junior partner (level up!)
Now I do think that as the
profession changes at a structural level, this will change, but I think the
concept of levelling up in some form or other will remain very applicable to
the legal profession.
An interesting set of questions to
ask, is then: what level do you want to get to? Why? What will it cost you?
What are the benefits?
Shifting focus then to the game
dynamics, the elements that drive motivation and reward, the application of
these to a legal career is arguably even stronger.
Top of the list are reward
and status. Two words often associated with the profession by
non-lawyers, but also two words that many lawyers openly acknowledge as key
drivers for them and dynamics that do keep them focussed on progress and
continuing to work serious hours as they strive for partnership.
Aligned to that drive, and the
fascination with the state of the profession's leaderboard (just read the legal
trade press to see how fascinated we all are with how firms are doing, how much
other lawyers earn etc) is the competition dynamic.
I've written plenty about the competitive nature
of the law firm market, and how that competitive intensity is growing as a
result of the political, economic and forces now shaping the future. However
within the firm is another hugely competitive environment, with players seeking
to level up and accumulate points, often at the expense of their peers.
Much of this behaviour, which can
often negate many of the benefits of collaboration which are critical to
optimising a knowledge based organisation, are driven by the fact that there
are limited opportunities to level up to equity partner.
Finally, there are some other game
dynamics that also play a part in the lives of many legal professionals -
achievement, self-expression and altruism, but these challenge many stereotypes
that surround the legal profession, so I'll leave those for another post.
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