As empowered clients continue to be more discerning in their choice of legal service providers, law firms need to think about more innovative ways to enhance the client experience and add value.
Here’s how the concept of co-creation can enrich your firm’s legal service delivery and help you stand out from the competition.
What is ‘co-creation’?
Co-creation refers to the process where clients and companies innovate and work together to create better products, services and ideas. It’s about creating solutions that have enduring value for clients.
Global firm Herbert Smith Freehills is one of several practices using co-creation initiatives to put clients at the forefront of their services, and respond to a greater industrial demand for innovation.
“For us, co-creation initiatives are about true collaboration with our clients, where we work as a team to create solutions to address their most pressing challenges,” says Sue Gilchrist, regional managing partner in Asia and Australia, Herbert Smith Freehills.
“This starts with listening and seeking to empathise with our clients. Many of our clients are facing extraordinarily tough times yet feel that their law firms don’t get this. We’ve seen many respond very positively to our genuine interest in understanding their world – instead of hunting for the next matter.”
“Increasingly, we’re finding ways to adapt our expertise to offer clients business solutions outside the realm of what is traditionally seen as legal work,” says Gilchrist.
Acting as trusted advisers (rather than simply legal service providers) has allowed Herbert Smith Freehills to become recognised for its collaborative work with clients. One of the firm’s recent initiatives includes a pioneering move to re-design the legal process for acquisitions. The move was made with joint input by an undisclosed client, and resulted in improved efficiencies and increased client satisfaction.
In another example, the firm partnered with client Telstra to create a matter management and workflow framework which helped to free up more than 40,000 hours (per year) of time that would have been spent on low-value, unproductive tasks.
The initiative proved to be a mutually beneficial development – in a recent article, Partner James Crowe said the firm’s work “has since expanded from specific transaction-focused innovation to investigating productivity opportunities generally across Telstra Legal.”
Telstra is now prioritising innovation because of the collaborative move with Herbert Smith Freehills. “Through the sprints our lawyers our now dedicating regular spots in their working week to focus on productivity initiatives,” said the telco’s general counsel finance & strategy, Mick Sheehy.
By focusing on tailor-made solutions, collaboration and agility, law firms can offer outstanding business and legal services in ways that not only create better value, but also improve client-firm relationships.
Co-creation in shared spaces
Design thinking concepts and lean startup approaches have been in vogue in other industries for some time, but now they’re hitting the legal market with full force. With that in mind, another way to use the co-creation principle is to examine how lawyers can co-work and co-exist with clients cohesively in the same space.
Real estate consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) explained in a recent report that co-working – sharing the use of an office or working space with other professionals, typically for sharing equipment, ideas and knowledge – has become a world order that encourages innovation and “supports collaboration, openness, flexibility, knowledge sharing and the user experience”.
The JLL report shows that 63 per cent of companies cite the ability to collaborate as the main reason for used a shared office space. The report also notes that co-working provides an apt environment for creative thinking and knowledge sharing, and allows companies and their employees to tap into new networks and ideas.
Co-working also offers legal professionals the opportunity to mingle with potential future clients. New York firm Dentons has cottoned on to this fact and are collaborating with WeWork, a former tech startup and renowned co-working company.
In Australia, law firm Allens has established a personnel group in-house to better respond to the current demands of the legal marketplace. Known as A-Plus, the group consists of 70 legal technologists, consultants, pricing experts and other professionals who work alongside the firm’s lawyers to provide specialist expertise as required. Another group, Innovation Underground, exists within Allens to foster collaboration among its young lawyers.
Gadens has also jumped on board the co-working bandwagon, turning 500 square metres of surplus space in its flagship Brisbane office into a co-working environment in 2015. The venture was a strategic move for the firm, which hopes to create relationships and foster new business opportunities with visitors who use the space.
Innovation is not a choice
It’s no secret that the legal industry is changing fast. The recent 2016 Australia: State of the Legal Market report, by Melbourne Law School and Thomson Reuters peer Monitor® reveals much about Australia’s legal industry and the changes it has endured this year alone.
The report also details the disruption the industry is facing, and notes that the more progressive and agile law firms are pulling ahead of the pack and will continue to outperform those resistant to change.
As this disruption continues into 2017 and beyond, one thing is for certain – firms have no choice but to find better ways to help savvy clients obtain a consistently high level of perceived value and service delivery.
Through the involvement of clients and even other professionals, co-creation can help your firm identify new areas of business opportunity, develop targeted solutions to meet evolving client needs and challenges, and overall, demonstrate authenticity and innovation in an uncertain legal future.