This is the story of the architect who gave a speech at a lawyers jamboree in which he suggested that his audience make themselves redundant. And what's more, he has a point …
Here is a red rag. It was waved by architect Richard Saxon at the Society of Construction Law's annual luncheon, where he gave a speech. He said: "The legal profession takes a substantial slice of the annual construction spend of this country and acts, it believes, in the best interests of its clients in an imperfect world." The room was heaving with bulls. They stirred. He waved again. "The UK construction industry is one of the least effective in the developed world at satisfying its clients or making a return for its participants." The bulls stirred some more.

He soothed: "I am not here to suggest that the legal profession is to blame for this." A bull somewhere was heard to snort.

More soothing: he was "here to talk about the changes now afoot and the effect they will have on the role lawyers play in the future".

He now pointed to what he described as two major initiatives designed to change construction: Latham in 1994 and Egan in 1998. Lack of trust was the great failing fathomed by Latham. Adversarial relationships overwhelmed collaboration. "Client behaviour was the key to contractor behaviour in a chain of exploitation of the weaker by the stronger," said Saxon. He was now waving Latham's red rag.

Then the Labour government launched the Egan taskforce, which said that the construction industry, government and major clients should "do it entirely differently". How? By doing what the Japanese car makers do … they do LEAN THINKING.

Lean thinking? What's that? Easy. You work out what process or activity or event does not add value to the end customer. Then you eliminate it. This is worth thinking about, particularly if you happen to be a lawyer. Saxon was challenging all the lawyers hanging around the construction industry to come up with lean thinking.

Saxon's challenge is sound. He waves his red rag at a lawyer-designed building process. It is simple really; the lawyers have asked a load of "what ifs". What if the building is late? What if the work is faulty? What if the design doesn't work? What if the building burns down? These what ifs, says Saxon, focus on failure. That's a dreadful error in lean thinking, because it adds no value. Instead, he wants us to focus on success.

I suggest Richard Saxon urges his clients to enter their next building project without using any form of contract

Hundreds of construction lawyers fidgeted uncomfortably. It had taken them less than a millisecond to visualise their pay packets disappearing.

The reason for this is that if all the lawyers who invent in-house forms of building contract, and all the lawyers who fiddle with standard form contracts were given the heave-ho, that slice of construction spend mentioned by Saxon would go too.

Now ask yourself: would their disappearance be a good thing? Yes, it would, because lean thinking not only winkles out waste, it focuses on success, not failure. And success isn't founded on satisfying the legal or contractual promises in 200 pages of documentation; instead, it is founded on the creation of "standing alliances".

That's a fancy new phrase to describe a continuous working relationship between customer and supplier. People don't shop at Sainsbury's or Tesco because they have to. There is no contract which obliges me to buy my bacon there. I do because of a standing alliance and feeling of confidence.

So, here is a contribution to lean thinking and the formation of standing alliances from this lawyer's page. Since Richard Saxon is chairman of Building Design Partnership, and presumably works closely with a number of clients, I suggest that he urges them to enter into their next building project without using any form of contract.

Not only that, they should have no price and no programme. The builder will do the work at cost plus a decent margin for profit. And if the customer wants a 24-hour shift, seven days a week, that's fine. And if the customer wants to change the shape of the roof or have different coat hooks, that's fine, too. All he does is pay the cost plus profit.