Borders’s lessons for lawyers

Larry Ribstein —  14 February 2011

So Borders is headed to bankruptcy. According to the WSJ:

Borders’s finances crumbled amid declining interest in bricks-and-mortar booksellers, a broad cultural trend for which it offered no answers. * * * Its online struggles proved critical as consumers became accustomed to getting books mailed to their doorsteps or downloaded to handheld electronic devices. * * * [T]he company didn’t anticipate the looming threat of Amazon and changing consumer habits that have pushed physical stores into decline.

Borders’s business was to convey information through books, which entailed killing trees, chopping them into paper, gluing them together, shipping them on big trucks to stores, to which consumers were expected to drive in all kinds of weather. Meanwhile FedEx, the Internet and wireless communications were developing as alternative ways to convey information. Borders apparently didn’t realize until it was too late that it was in the information and reading industry, not the book industry.

Now let’s think about lawyers.  They are also in the information industry.  However, they think, like Borders, that they are in the business of conveying this information in a particular way, via high cost customized services for individual clients.  So far lawyers’ dream world is protected by an ancient, decrepit and inefficient regulatory system.  

But as Bruce Kobayashi have written in a recently posted (and now more recently revised) article, that dream is about to end.

Lawyers should start thinking about Borders.

Larry Ribstein

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Professor of Law, University of Illinois College of Law

One response to Borders’s lessons for lawyers

  1. 

    Lawyers do not just deal in information.

    They also deal in good judgment.

    From a computer programming perspective, that is not at all a trivial distinction.