What Does a "Future Proof" Law Firm Look Like?

According to the 2020 Altman Weil "Law Firms in Transition 2020" survey, "only 22% of firms have attempted to systematically re-engineer their work processes and only 31% have provided ongoing project management training and support to their attorneys." Of the legal organizations asked, 53.6% are pushing to improve their process efficiency by replacing human resources with legal technology, a 5% increase from 2019. This finding underscores that the future of legal tech is well underway and coming to a firm near you.

With demand for ease of accessibility and a more efficient and affordable client experience, law firms and legal departments are finding themselves on a quickly moving track toward a new future in the marketplace. But is your practice ready for the challenge? Creating a strategy to successfully future-proof your law firm requires a sharp focus on the following six aspects that impact your ability to adapt: 

Drive Value to Your Clients

In its 2020 Legal Department Project Panels Survey, Gartner found that legal departments that could cut back on resource waste and unplanned work streamlined their process transformation efforts, enabling quicker delivery of advice. 

This statistic highlights how creating efficient governances and germane guidance empowers your stakeholders to pivot quickly with market changes and make sound decisions based on appropriate risk considerations. Actionable steps that support this aspect of future-proofing would include seeking out cultural attributes and legal processes in your firm that prevent adaptive risk-taking and add to drag. Incentivization of process compliance and related technological tools by leadership is also a crucial step in this regard.

Create a Laser-Focused Service Portfolio

A significant challenge that legal departments face is their business partners' demands on their agendas. Because your enterprise focus may not align with your stakeholders, it is crucial to avoid wasting valuable productivity on unplanned work deemed high urgency by these groups. Your firm's success depends on having the ability to discern the use of its resources for business goals with high risk attached or pose uncertainty on an operational and legal level. 

One approach to addressing this demand is to work with different areas of leadership on what level of service is necessary for future corporate decision-making. This includes improving integration into their workflows with codified guidance on legal questions and evaluating what service offerings should continue or be decommissioned based on business outcomes.

Responsiveness in Your Delivery Model

Another interesting statistic Garner's survey revealed was that only 29% of legal leadership were involved in ensuring their teams had appropriate guidance regarding the use of external resources for operational issues that inevitably emerge. Quick and proper responsiveness to high-volume workflows requires streamlined processes for developing guidance and standardization of processes supporting these large workflows. 

To ensure your legal practice or department is better prepared for these challenges in the future, develop adequate governance and guidance to manage this demand. Additionally, create processes to break down critical duties into separate tasks.

Strategize Your Legal Technology

In 2020, 37.2% of the 53.6% replacing human resources with legal technology in the Altman Weil survey reported significant improvement in their operational performance. This shows that taking a more deliberate approach to create a technological strategy that is adaptable does pay off.

To maximize the benefit of legal tech, it is vital to identify which solutions will improve your operational and legal capabilities and the outcome of your business. To best future-proof your organization in this category, you can expect to create operational processes that leverage your technological investment. You will also need to keep an eye on the future, determine what changes may be necessary and test your findings.

Source Modeling

It is common practice for legal departments to outsource much of their work to law firms at a high cost to time and expense. Looking to the future, this source modeling is unsustainable and acts as a drag on profitability. By disaggregating matters into discrete assignments, your in-house legal team could spread out this workload among a network of support instead of one or two providers. In addition, a diversified source model can better align your providers to the right tasks at the appropriate cost. 

Further, incentivizing your legal team to adhere to specific resource guidelines will empower them to better assess what benefit outsourcing particular duties will achieve regarding completion and delivery.

Developing a Quality Talent Pool

Even the most well-managed practice will face budget limitations and unpredictable workflow demands that require new talent for support. Every hire your legal organization makes is an investment that cannot afford to gamble on whether one's capabilities and skills can meet future demand. Future proof your talent pool by ensuring your processes align to the skills you have identified are necessary to meet the future needs of your firm. 

Consider how your practice may not be tapping into your company's entire skill set of lawyers and nonlawyers. Work closely with your HR department to identify shared skills across your enterprise that may benefit your legal team. Also, invest in your legal staff by encouraging them to further their current capabilities through incentivization and goal making.

Begin Future-Proofing with Entity Management Software

The future of legal tech offers significant innovations and tools that will transform how legal organizations operate and directly impact client experiences and business outcomes. Technological innovation is essential for any law professional to find success, and entity management software (EMS) has quickly become a standard tool of the trade. 

At Athennian, we recognized early on in the legal tech revolution that EMS does more than handle routine tasks that drag down productivity. Our digital management tools not only streamline your operations, but assist in ensuring client equity industry compliance, analyze crucial KPIs, and so much more. Learn about our latest legal technology innovations and trends, by taking our product tour. 

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