Transformation & Innovation Director, Adam Hembury, explains how the legal industry is undergoing significant change and why firms need to take action now.

 

Law firms have operated in the same way for decades and have historically been fairly resistant to changing that tried-and-tested model. But the legal industry is finally undergoing significant change, pushed in a new direction by the arrival of new technology; client and employee needs; and a demand for better value

Transformation in the legal sector is about investing in legal innovation and service delivery, overhauling the way that client work is performed, harnessing new technology and introducing new ways of working to increase efficiency and effectiveness. It’s about providing better value, as well as creating new value. But, why change? Why overhaul the status-quo that’s been working well for many firms for so long? 

There are three very clear reasons why change isn’t just important, but inevitable.

1. Pressure from clients
Whichever sector a firm’s clients are from, they won’t have escaped change themselves, as competitive pressures have been fuelled by economic growth and exponential advances in technology and changing working practices. As clients become more tech-savvy in their own industries and see the benefits, they are beginning to demand the same from their law firms. In particular, they will be looking for:

  • A focus on high value-add work
  • Improved customer experience
  • Faster and more accurate work
  • Demonstrable, proactive change in the way legal work is delivered
  • Tangible benefits from legal tech, such as lower fees, more transparency and more flexibility
 

2. Remaining competitive

Legal tech is quickly being adopted by smaller, agile firms as well as new players in the industry looking to make their mark in the sector. While larger firms may not yet see these as genuine competitors, or a threat to their revenue base, the speed at which other industries are changing should make them sit up and take notice. Technology is enabling these boutique firms and new entrants to eat away at the core legal workload. Other competition factors to consider include:

  • Increasing price competition in certain areas of the market
  • The Big Four expanding their legal services offerings, combining them with strategy services and emerging technology expertise
  • Change ensures the attractiveness of the firm to both legal talent and clients
  • Tech adoption now will help to future-proof the business
  • Potential new revenue streams through the use of data, artificial intelligence or blockchain
 

3. Increasing employee expectations

Attracting and retaining talent is becoming a critical cornerstone of law firm competitiveness. The younger generation of talent, along with the continuing demands for diversity and agile working, are increasing the pressure for innovation across working practices and the people agenda. Investment in change is essential to enable employees to work smarter, faster and more effectively. New technology such as document review platforms reduce the repetitive admin work typically taken on by trainees and junior staff, freeing them up to focus on the key risks and providing a better solution to the clients. 

  • The next generation of lawyers will demand more modern working practices, such as technologies that enable flexible working
  • Young lawyers see resistance to innovation by their firms as the biggest threat to the profession and are willing to leave for more progressive firms
  • To be demonstrably leading the way in innovation is excellent for corporate culture and talent attraction

Law firms, regardless of size, reputation or client base, will need to adapt to survive in the very near future, investing in change to compete with the innovators and disruptors in the sector, and this change needs to start as soon as possible.

If you’d like to find out how Hydrogen Group and I are helping law firms to understand and implement change, please get in touch with me.
 

About the author

 

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Adam Hembury

Transformation & Innovation Director,

He has spent the last four years delivering innovation and transformation to two leading law firms, including: implementation of a new global strategy; digital strategy and technology innovation; introduction and adoption of new ways of working including legal technology, legal project management, knowledge management, resourcing and a legal service centre; data analytics; innovation and new value creation; knowledge management; setting up a PMO to drive the disciplines of decision making and prioritisation.