To be successful, law firms need to adapt strategies that leverage technology and data to drive success

May 19, 2021

Lawyer and client collaboration, technology, culture, and data were at the forefront of panel discussions at the sixth annual Sandpiper Partners’ UK-focused Managing Law Firm Profitability, Pricing and Data Analytics Virtual Conference. Williams Lea’s CEO Clare Hart joined a panel of law firm leaders and legal general counsel representatives from across the United Kingdom to share ideas on how law firms are adapting business strategies in an ever-changing landscape and how outsourcing certain support services is a key component for success.

Here are the key takeaways from the event:

Clients and COVID-19 have moved technology to the top of firms’ strategic focus

In a live poll taken during the event, 74% of the attendees said that technology is the biggest strategy area impacted by COVID-19. Law firms recognize that more innovative technology leads to better client service.

One prominent General Counsel pointed out that during a recent company law firm panel review, most of their focus was on the technology around the legal services provided to them: “When we’re reviewing our firms, and we’ve worked with most of the firms over many years that are on our panel, we can see the firms that stand out, because they are genuinely trying to be innovative in how they are using technology to make their interactions with their clients  more effective. I do get the sense that law firms are beginning to really recognize the value of technology and are trying to get their heads around it, and some are more advanced than others.”

Law firms need to focus on clients and be clear about what they don’t do

For a law firm to be successful, it needs to be very clear about what it will and won’t do as a business, which is why a panelist and partner at a leading law firm emphasized that it’s important to ensure “…that you are absolutely, as a firm leader, focusing on your clients. We need to make sure as professionals that we are tailoring the advice to their current challenges. (Clients) want differentiated legal expertise. The in-house counsel need advice from outside lawyers with a broader view of the legal and business issues facing industries, and they want to learn.”

With this client first approach, more support is needed for lawyers, from junior associate to senior in essential business service areas, such as document processing billing, marketing and secretarial support.

Law firms invest more in employee connectivity as we go hybrid

Live polling highlighted that 52% of attendees cited attracting and retaining talent impacting their firm’s strategy. This opened a debate on how flexible law firms could be about where they would allow their lawyers to work. Which, in turn, raised questions on whether lawyers would still charge London-based rates or offer more flexible pricing if they are based in other regions in the UK, or anywhere else in the world for that matter.

Panelists agreed that dilution of culture was an issue, as one pointed out, “With the move to hybrid working, there’s a risk of losing connectivity. I think we all know that Zoom is great for execution, but not so great for building relationships,” which highlighted the importance of staying close to clients and also increasing connections with the people within the firm, “There is a real drive towards making sure that you make your people, above all, feel strongly connected. And if you are doing the right work, that work is very attractive to the best people, because they will feel satisfied that they’re doing something which is right at the center of what the firm is all about. And seeing that connection is incredibly important.”

Harnessing data can effectively optimize productivity, utilization and attract and retain talent

Law firm leaders agreed that collecting and analyzing data within their firm needs significant improvement. An optimum solution is integrating a digital platform to see how effective they’re delivering work tasks throughout the firm, whether client facing or administrative, as more employees, lawyers and support staff alike, move towards remote working.

Using a centralized digital platform can make the most out of firm data through productivity and utilization analytics dashboards. Not only can data help measure how quickly and accurately tasks are being completed, it can measure end-user utilization; who required the support work and when, which allows stakeholders to see which partner or associates are making requests, in what offices, and at what time of day. It can identify overworked partners or junior associates so support can be quickly provided to them to prevent burnout or talent attrition. As Clare Hart, pointed out, “More broadly, it’s like all data utilization, making sure we link the information to the strategy of the company and the business decisions that we’re making.”

To find out more about the future of the legal sector, particularly as it relates to workplace evolution, download The Future of Work, an in-depth report conducted by UnWork and commissioned by Williams Lea.

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