Does Your Firm Have to Change?aderantuser
Firms are now facing nearly constant pressure to adapt to the legal industry’s new realities. As I shared earlier this year, experts and customers are telling firms that their century old status quo will no longer work in today’s market. And clients are increasingly demanding greater transparency, not to mention lower fees.
This state of affairs has not sent firms into a frenzy of change and disruption, however. In fact, the pace of change has been slower than would be expected considering the multiple forces in play. A misreading of this situation could lead one to believe that many of the hot topics in law today – process improvement, matter management, alternative fee arrangements – will not have much long term effect on the industry.
However, these trends are slowly but surely transforming firms and the relationship with their clients. As noted by The Legal Whiteboard, “We are only now building the organizational structures that will enable lawyers to work collaboratively and creatively with other professionals. At least among law firm partners, many have been waiting for proofs of concept from peers… This is because the diffusion of innovations in all industries, including law, is driven less by logic than experience.”
A recent item in Above the Law posited what advice Amazon’s Jeff Bezos might give to law firms. They wrote that Bezos dismisses the idea of looking 10 years ahead, since that’s “both a fool’s game and a risky bet.” Instead, he suggests a business (or firm) should invest now in making their business and services as strong as possible. Focus on the things that you know are not going to change, rather than trying to predict the future.
This advice ties in neatly with the process improvement trends in legal – namely to make your firm function better today. This is accomplished by focusing on your people and the tools they use to do their jobs. Training today’s attorneys to focus on efficiency, continuous improvement and cost control would make every firm better. But that won’t succeed without providing them the necessary technology tools to accomplish those tasks. As Above the Law pointed out, “Other than investments in talent, Bezos would likely advise law firms to invest even more heavily into better workproduct delivery and client communication tools. Code words for technology.”
No one can force your firm to change the way you train attorneys, handle your cases or invest in new technology. But as more firms start to understand the benefits of the new processes -including an improved bottom line – firms that insist on standing their ground risk falling behind. Some experts see the pace of change in legal accelerating dramatically in the near future, so the pressure is not likely to let up anytime soon.