13 Big Ideas on Law Firm Innovation and Legal Tech from Business of Law Professionals

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13 Big Ideas on Law Firm Innovation and Legal Tech from Business of Law Professionals

by Chris Cartrett, Executive Vice President

Innovation is a bit of a buzzword in law firm circles, but research suggests there’s a very real effort behind it.

Case in point: A recent survey of law firms we conducted suggested about one-third (30%) of law firms have someone dedicated to the responsibility of law firm innovation. Interestingly, the largest law firms were more than twice as likely to say their firm had an employee in charge of innovation.

This is no surprise because we see this from the law firms we work with on a routine basis. Moreover, it really shines through in their contributions at our Momentum conference, which is an annual gathering of some of the biggest thinkers in the business of law.

For the last couple of years, we recorded some of the panel sessions at this conference and sliced them up for a short-form video series we call LawTalks. As we prepare to roll out the newest videos from the 2018 conference, we took some time to go back and cull through the library of videos we’ve collected already to surface some of the most interesting parts.

What follows below are 13 videos of business of law professionals, in their own words, speaking to the topic of law firm innovation and legal tech. Most of these videos run just a few minutes in length.

1) Aligning the back office with the front office

One firm organizes back-office specialists by practice area. Each practice group has dedicated marketing and financial professionals which means those staffers become experts in that practice area. This translates into greater proficiency in pricing or business development for that specific area of law. For example, billing specialists that work directly with a partner to resolve e-billing issues for that practice area can reduce rejections and appeals.

2) AI could enable “no touch” law firm invoicing

What is the potential for artificial intelligence (AI) in law firms? The systems law firms are using already “know” what is being done. For example, if a lawyer had a phone call, attended a meeting, or worked on a document, traces of that information is in the system already and AI just pulls that all together and provides a time sheet at the end of the day. This is rolled up into an invoice on a certain day every month and is billed to the client. Intrigued? Listen and watch how it’s framed up in the video nearby.

3) Using big data to predict litigation pricing

It’s no secret that time entry is hard and many timekeepers dislike the task, but AI could bring new benefits to pricing. For example, time entries are a “huge data set.” One panelist envisions applying AI to analyze hundreds of thousands of time cards and building a budget for even the most complex litigation matters with an 80% probability. The firm could then price in the remaining risk and offer the client a fixed-fee.

4) Innovation must come from the top

The firms that are most successful at adopting new ways of doing things are those with leaders that take innovation seriously. Change and innovation must come from the top with leaders that are actively involved.

5) Who touches technology in a firm is changing

It used to be that the back office was the only staff function that touched technology, but that’s changing. Legal technology providers have gotten better at developing systems that lawyers will actually use. This is bringing the back office and the front office together.

6) Using one project to get it all done right

Sometimes a required initiative can influence broader change. When a client told a law firm they wanted all personally identifiable information (PII) to be encrypted, the business support team took that as an opportunity to encrypt all the data in the law firm.

7) Technology is evolving the skills and roles of law firm staff

The client side drive to electronic billing (e-billing) is a good example of how staff roles must evolve as technology develops. The skill set for shepherding invoices through e-billing is very different than the skill set needed to compile an invoice in a word processor.

8) You or your firm might have four out of five stars

A key success factor in any business is employee engagement and client engagement. When you factor in consumer rating trends – think Trip Advisor or Amazon reviews – some see this merging with legal technology in the form performance management. The result will be that law firms gain continuous feedback from clients and employees.

9) Team building as a celebrated trait in law firm leadership

Two is the new five – it’s the idea that whatever changes used to take five years to unfold, will now require just two. This has implications for law firm leadership. The best leaders will have the ability to inspire a team of experts, rather than being an expert. This is because the pace of change is so fast, and legal work so complex, that it truly requires a leader that can orchestrate a multidisciplinary approach.

10) How to manage legal tech change in a law firm

Here’s the change process in a law firm, as written by a lawyer, according to one panelist:

  • We don’t need this;
  • We may need this, but we shouldn’t do it this way;
  • We need this, and we should do it this way, but it only applies to others and not me;
  • My case is different, so I’m concerned about how the new system will affect me in ways it won’t affect others;
  • Everyone else has gone along with this, so we’ll make the best of it; and
  • This is completely obvious, and I don’t know why we are wasting time talking about it.

Clearly, that list is offered tongue-in-cheek, but usually, if something makes you laugh a little, it’s because there’s a bit of truth to it. This video does offer some very serious steps for managing change including:

  • Projects should be led by a partner truly willing to champion a change;
  • Get junior members of the firm on board with the change early; and
  • Have some empathy – no one likes change.

While this particular video runs about eight minutes it’s well worth watching to capture the nuance around this important issue.

11)  Law firm improvement is about hard work and discipline

Moving from one proficiency level to the next requires hard work, repetition and the discipline to continue. There’s also an element of organizational awareness – that is recognizing the knowledge gaps. It’s almost cliché to say it, but world class athletes compete successfully because they put in more time to their endeavor. Undoubtably, it requires a strategy – you can’t do it all – but if you pick what you want to improve and focus, that’s entirely within a law firm’s grasp.

12) How to help lawyers understand margins and profit

Managing margins isn’t just about time and labor, it includes all the things that go into the cost of delivering a legal service the client. Educating lawyers to improve margins requires two important factors. First, you must be transparent about profit for people to understand the effects of their actions on profit. Second, helping lawyers understand how they structure their work is the key they hold to influence the margins for a practice group or firm.

13)  How to innovate in a firm

Law firms in generally don’t have a reputation for innovation, but should they want to change that perception, there are three barriers to overcome:

  • We’ve tried that before and didn’t work, so we won’t try it again;
  • We won’t try it unless you can guarantee it will work; and
  • Who else has tried this?

Innovation comes down to an attitude, which for a business, like a law firm, means it’s cultural. Some firms have embraced this by tasking innovation to a person – a chief strategy officer – or assigning it to a group of people rather than seeing it a responsibility tasked strictly to IT.

If you are an Aderant customer and are interested in attending the next event, we have an upcoming 2018 Momentum conference in London as well as a save-the-date notice up for the 2019 Momentum conference in Orlando .

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