Smart Law Firms

Smart Firms Taking Advantage of Business of Law Changes

As the co-founder of the legal project management platform, Hivelight, I am privileged to get a backstage pass to the changes that are happening in legal technology and the business of law right now.

Adding to this, I get to view this moment in history through the lens of being a lawyer, and an engineer, who has grown up around the business of law. I have also been through the fire and pressure of growing a practice and navigating people through significant change.  

This is an exciting time, and my strong sense is that we are very much at the beginning of some major changes that will ultimately be a net positive for firms, clients, and the courts. To those reading this, you have not missed the boat; it is boarding right now.

This article serves as a summary of the factors driving these changes and how smart leaders are leveraging these emerging opportunities for serious advantage.

Fundamental to these changes are a few key events and drivers.

First, the pandemic. The importance of this cannot be overstated. For the longest time, much of the industry (and especially the courts) viewed technology as an unreliable novelty. 

Then, the pandemic hit, and overnight the profession was forced to adopt tech and rely on it heavily to run their matters, do business, and deliver services to their clients. As a profession, we discovered the tech was now really good and virtual firms could become commonplace.

Second, the symbiotic dynamic between new browser-based platforms and generational changes at both the entry and leadership levels of firms.

This new generation has grown up with an app for everything and is perplexed when expected to work with tech that resembles Windows 95 with a hoarding addiction. Best in breed is nothing new to them. While partners complain of not wanting to have to switch between 3 different software products, their team is walking around with 100 apps on their phones.

Third, while switching between different desktop software products was a pain, most software is now being deployed in the browser. Modern browsers are built to help you tie together multiple apps and the 50 open tabs that you refuse to close.

Fourth, artificial intelligence has burst out of the cage and is suddenly good. Change was already in motion, which poured fuel on the fire. As the issues of data security and reliability are resolved, it seems universally acknowledged that change is happening, and it is better to be on the wave than under it. 

Finally, the combination of new collaborative technologies coupled with hybrid working practices has normalised the concept of the virtual team. Modern firms have been quickly waking up to the fact their available talent pool is no longer limited to the surrounding postcodes. 

So what is the result?

Firms are turning off the life support on their on-prem practice management solutions and switching to browser-based solutions in droves (it is an amazing time to be an implementation consultancy).

More firms are subtly drifting over to a best-in-breed tech strategy. This is happening very organically in most cases, where their growth necessitates supplementing their all-in-one solution. 

Some forward-thinking firms realise that a best-in-breed mindset is optimal when migrating to a new tech stack. Rather than changing everything at once, they move tool by tool. This both limits the disruption and learning curve and incrementally alleviates the pressure on the team as each new solution starts to deliver its benefits.

This drift over to best in breed has yielded a new generation of more collaborative legal tech vendors who will readily rope each other in on deals (skip a session at your next conference, and you’ll see all the sponsors going over to each other’s booths for mutual demos and discussion of referral opportunities).

Traditional aggressive enterprise sales strategies are giving way to a more consultative approach to selling, which is delivering a better experience for buyers and a shorter sales cycle for legal tech providers - it is not unusual for us to see sales cycles as short as 1 week from demo to implementation in some cases.

Where the use of external support teams was previously the forte of larger practices, we are now seeing smaller firms building virtual teams and using external support agencies based locally and overseas. This allows them to manage their capacity risk as they transition between each growth stage, access talent anywhere, and keep fixed overheads down. 

The new generation has grown up on productivity tech and expects the tech they use for work to similarly keep them cognitively unburdened with the answers at their fingertips. This has led to the emergence of user-friendly legal project management platforms to serve the need for fast answers and improved file velocity.

There is a growing wave of boutique firms who understand that building a great practice is not about being the best lawyer. It is about having excellent marketing, sales, operations, and client communication and hiring great lawyers and support staff. And most of all, having clarity on your ICPs (Ideal Client Profiles) to guide you in each area of the business.

While US personal injury firms have long understood the critical importance of a fast and disciplined intake system, this is now entering the Australian market too. We see this particularly in firms focused on personal injury, family law, and business law. Even smaller firms are starting to build dedicated intake teams with clear processes and dedicated systems to track leads and cost agreements. 

The developments around virtual teams and disciplined intake drive a push for reporting and metrics around performance accountability. In essence, firms are feeling the need for systems that automatically report on whether work is being completed on schedule, an acceptable volume of work is being completed each shift, and the pipeline is being kept full each month with enough leads of acceptable quality. 

Finally, we do need to mention artificial intelligence. Despite the hype and attention, AI appears to be in relatively light use at present. This is sure to change, however, as lawyers become more comfortable with it as the use cases in law are abundant.

The parting comment on the future of AI in the business of law is that it is not here to take your job. It is here to make your job more enjoyable. The truth is that in legal practice, for every moment that you get that might loosely resemble a scene in Suits, it takes months of grinding, tedious hard work to get there… that is the stuff that AI will help with. 

The Industrial Revolution removed the limitations imposed by human physical strength and endurance, the Information Revolution removed the limits of human memory and recall speed, and the AI revolution is removing the limitations of cognitive endurance… and in each case, when applied to repetitive tasks.

To reiterate, these are exciting times. The changes are really just getting started. Significant opportunities are opening up, and smart firms are moving on this now. All that is required is the willingness to start, the work ethic to finish, and the courage to lead your team through it. You can do this!

Ashley Kelso

Ashley KelsoCo-Founder & CEO of Hivelight

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Disclaimer:  The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Novum Learning or Legal Practice Intelligence (LPI). While every attempt has been made to ensure that the information in this article has been obtained from reliable sources, neither Novum Learning or LPI nor the author is responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information, as the content published here is for information purposes only. The article does not constitute a comprehensive or complete statement of the matters discussed or the law relating thereto and does not constitute professional and/or financial advice.

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