This Special Issue is brought to you by HPC #CyberMatch ™
“There is nothing to fear but fear itself. And fear is not a worthy adversary.”
In our second #ThinkTank, we asked a panel of our world-class Faculty to share their uniquely valuable insights on the State of the Legal Industry. In this case, we asked them to share what they think is the #1 thing the Legal Industry could do to improve the delivery of Legal Services for clients? No holds barred. The richness and diversity of their thinking makes for timely, compelling reading. We hope you enjoy it.
Founder, CEO & Publisher
High Performance Counsel
#TopFix: What is the #1 thing the Legal Industry could do to improve the delivery of Legal Services for clients? No holds barred.
Less talk, more communication. As a society we’re drowning in noise. We have more ways to talk to each other than ever before, yet all too often our conversations are fragmented and unproductive. While the problem is hardly limited to the legal industry, the consequences for legal are particularly acute. The legal profession is built on service and advocacy. As an eDiscovery services provider we assist law firm and corporate clients to investigate, inform and persuade. Precise communication can break through the noise and become the catalyst that makes your case.
Effective communication is accurate, responsive, timely and proactive. Crucially, it’s the foundation of successful collaboration. Resolving today’s complex legal and technical issues requires collaboration between corporate client, law firm and service provider.
The good news is improved communication is within reach. Make effective communication a priority in your own practice and foster it in your organization. Be professional and courteous even in short messages. Learn to use communications technology more effectively. As part of project planning, define guidelines for communication means, frequency, response times and points of contact.
Last but not least, be an active listener. True communication is an exchange. Talking without communicating can’t accomplish anything.
Legal Operations strategies, i.e. 2-3 year Legal Ops Tech and Process Roadmap. When I was operating in house, we spent a significant amount of time planning. Planning what projects to embark upon, budget planning, headcount planning, etc. And while I had all of these individual plans documented mostly on paper, but sometimes in my head, I treated them as separate projects and I didn’t pull them all together into a single Legal Operations Strategy. Now that I’m consulting with departments, it’s become evident to me how critical it is to have all of this documented and mapped out in one place. A roadmap is simply a visual representation of what projects are to be undertaken in the next couple of quarters or years. This is done by working with stakeholders in the department to gain an understanding of priorities, developing solutions to address these priorities (which will be a combination of process enhancements, staffing and technology), then determining what resources are needed to implement said solutions. This plan gives the team a goal to work towards in a holistic fashion rather than addressing issues on an ad hoc basis.
Lawyers need to become client-centric. For too long the legal industry has been lawyer-centric and this has a) inhibited change and adaptation within the profession and b) left clients in the dark about just what lawyers do and how they do what they do. Lawyers need to understand their clients – if the client is a business, understand the business and how it works; if it is an individual they need to understand the person and what their concerns are and what their needs are and be empathetic to those concerns and needs. The continuing struggle to improve access to the legal system for clients is a prime example of how the legal profession being lawyer-centric for so long has hurt those the industry is intended to help.
The one thing the legal industry can do to improve the delivery of legal services for clients is recognizing that each professional to provide a true client service solution brings different talents to the table. Just like I would not ask a lawyer to perform brain surgery or a doctor to draft a legal brief, having the same level of acknowledgment of the unique skills that technologists bring is a winning approach to successful collaboration that clients will eventually demand of legal providers.
And, devise better ways in which collaboration can be leveraged to facilitate true teamwork in the delivery of legal services. Law firms need to learn to work together, and with other Law Corporations, in the delivery of legal services in more robust and creative ways.
Train law students differently – so that when they graduate they can add value, so that they can work differently (learn to code, Learn how to Redline)
- Identify what legal services cost or should cost
- Create a better way to evaluate and buy services: Yelp Data
Stop billing on an hourly basis and start billing by tasks.
- Corporate counsel clients have more: (a) sophistication because they often come from senior positions at law firms; and (b) economic leverage because there is less legal work to be done.
- Break work down into segments, and assign a price to the completion of each task: (a) the price should be reasonable; and (b) if additional complications arise, then reasonable adjustments should be made.
Keeping consistent with the point above, the industry and, more importantly, the judiciary needs to look at the current processes and see how they can be made more efficient, effective and modernized. The fact that certain documents today still need to be faxed, or that appearances for court motions etc still need to take place in person (thus resulting in higher expenses: time, travel, etc) shows that there is lots of room for improvement. By reviewing and optimizing the processes and the tools we, as an industry use and require others to use, we can substantially and almost immediately result in an improvement in the delivery of services.
Firms need to invest more resources in exposing and training their teams about the business and customer service side of the legal practice and about the business and customer needs of their clients. Firms are a cost center for clients. Firms need to understand that and see how they can maximize their value and decrease their clients legal exposures.
Joy Heath Rush
Law firms need to measure what clients value rather than what law firms value, then market to and execute against those measures. Creating predictability in cost is top of mind for many clients – and this does not mean predictability of outcome. Instead, it means developing a reliable framework for cost/benefit in matter pricing.
Embrace change rather than resist it. This means rethinking and challenging the status quo as to how lawyers are educated, trained, evaluated and compensated. Firms need to reconsider their client model at all stages starting with business development, throughout client engagement and continuing after matter conclusion. Firms also need to reconsider the fixed costs within a business model. Clients must push the change because it’s not happening without the client as the catalyst. Once the underpinning of the BUSINESS of law change, the delivery of legal services will follow suit and be more efficient, more effective and better received.
Feel Their Pain. Lawyers can improve their delivery of legal services by putting themselves in their clients’ place at the very outset of a new matter. Remember that clients often have a a lot riding on litigation budgets, assessments of claims and defenses, and projected time frames. If something goes wrong with the lawyer’s analysis, the client likely will be the one who has to explain why to a potentially unhappy boss. Don’t be overly optimistic when providing early matter assessments to clients. Point out areas that may negatively impact your analysis, and communicate early and often if your projections start heading off track.
Digital Transformation is certainly a trend happening in industry including law. This process includes electronically digitizing the customer experience. The components in such digital transformation include data flow, supply chain management, e- discovery, and governance. This process allows for more transparency and more personalized client engagement.
Deliver certainty, not uncertainty, by moving as far as possible to fixed pricing not hourly billing. Hourly billing drives and rewards the wrong behavior. It transfers risk to the client.
It is also about culture. Corporate Legal Departments should stop using the phrase ‘In-house’. It defines them against law firms. I’ve never heard of an in-house finance, sales or legal function!
Lucy Endel Bassli
The #1 thing we need to do is identify the ultimate BUSINESS goal that in-house teams are trying to help with and focus on solving THAT problem. Legal review is not the goal of the service. Legal review is the means to the end.
We cannot wait until things are irreparably broken in America because of poor cybersecurity. We need to bring solutions right to the desktop – the straight forward truth on how to fix things. We need to show that immediate value – not write a memo on it
This is a short answer from me. Law firms should fully embrace all things technology as it applies to service delivery and client relationship management. We all are aware of the obvious methods — too many to type. The biggest hurdle here is that law firms continue to operate in defensive mode rather than offensive. The successful firms shall be the ones that adopt change ahead of the curve and not wait for their peers to do so.
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