Our 2014 The future of law – digital law firm revolution report shows that 82 per cent of respondents were either unsure or not confident that their existing legal practice business model was “future-proofed” to remain competitive in 30 years. What is your law firm’s strategy to stay ahead of the market? Are you on top of technology trends?
Here are five technologies to help you prepare for increasing client demands in a rapidly changing legal landscape.
1. A new dawn: Changing business models
In July 2014, Forbes reported that the “era of the small law firm is dawning”. With competitive prices and new technology on the rise, tweaking or reinventing your business model could help you define your value and win clients. New models include:
- Virtualised firms.
- Increased use of non-lawyer professionals such as offshore legal vendors, virtual assistants and paralegals.
- Specialised practice in niche areas of the law.
Australian firm Nexus Lawyers is also leading the charge with a dispersed, ‘open law’ business model.
Similar to Axiom in the US, Nexus operates like a remote-chambers practice with the collegiate and systems support of a large firm, including an efficient work referral and payment system, access to knowledge banks and a better return for lawyers on their intellectual capital.
The founder of Nexus, Marcus McCarthy, believes this is the most sustainable legal practice model for the future.
“We offer efficient, competitive legal services through structural reform,” he says. “Clients are winning, lawyers are winning – everyone is happier.”
To shore up for the future, review your firm’s existing model to better utilise technology and compete with the innovators.
2. Work smarter, not harder: Smart devices
“Knowledge and skill is mobile,” says McCarthy, which means personal smart devices are here to stay.
The uptake of smartphones, tablets and mobile operating devices has enabled flexibility, mobility and, ultimately, more satisfied and autonomous employees. Practitioners can access mobile dictation, document management apps and research databases such as Westlaw AU, AustLII and legal e reader apps like ProView, as well as tapping into the firm’s resources while out of the office.
Make sure you establish strong internal IT systems and ‘smart’ security processes to manage your staff’s BYO technology. You can then reap the benefits of a workforce that can access secure data while on the go – from a home office to their local espresso bar to the back of a courtroom.
3. Content is king
In an era of information overload, client-centric content is more important than ever. Content marketing brings a raft of advantages, and smaller players can really set themselves apart by taking these steps:
- Distribute fresh, accurate and up-to-date content across a broad range of mediums, from Facebook to LinkedIn to Twitter to the firm’s website.
- Promote your expertise and affordability in an online marketplace.
- Create a personal connection to attract and engage a loyal target audience.
And if you’re a busy solo practitioner with no time for marketing, outsource it!
4. In the cloud: Practice management software
Reporting to Lawyers Weekly in July 2014, ALPMA president Andrew Barnes has observed that the internet offers a platform for competitors to use non-conventional law firm structures to deliver quality at a lower price, which means firms are under pressure to be more efficient.
Cloud-based practice management software, such as Thomson Reuters’ Infinitylaw and Firm Central, allows small firms and solo operators to access a fully integrated, mobile, secure management system with essential legal research and business tools on hand. Time, matter and billing management, enhanced mobility and unique integration with a range of legal programs are just some of the benefits of being in the cloud.
5. Electronic age: eDiscovery
Kylie Peterson, a litigation technology consultant, has reported to ALPMA that with the right support, eDiscovery is a low-risk proposition for firms. It provides a means for document disclosure in an electronic format, allowing lawyers to review, manage, analyse and disclose litigation documentation in a more efficient way.
So when it comes to new technologies, how much change can we expect and how quickly? Andrew Barnes says firms are conscious of the challenges that their businesses face, but most are committed to a “slow evolution” through incremental reform.
Embracing new technologies is crucial to maintaining market relevancy. By rethinking the way you service your clients and use technology, your firm could be well and truly future-proofed.