Law firms face an interesting future. Already, competition is reaching fever pitch with non-traditional, disruptive players such The AA and The Co-operative entering the market. Fees are under scrutiny, while profit margins are already squeezed. Mergers and acquisitions seem to be daily occurrences.
Much is beyond our control. All we can really do is predict, prepare, and react as quickly and as responsibly as possible. The trends that we see now will not disappear overnight, and those firms that can roll with the punches and come out stronger on the other side are the ones that will thrive in year 2020 and beyond.
Luckily, there are a number of things you can do today to future-proof your firm. They all center around customer service, and they all require law firm management 101: getting the mix between people, process, and technology right.
Break down the barriers
Whether it’s old ways of thinking, siloed projects, outdated technology, or complicated and overpriced billing, now is the time to re-evaluate how your firm works and whether the way you work really works for your clients.
There are only a limited number of ways for law firms to differentiate themselves, with price being an important but notoriously difficult one. Everyone is feeling the pressure to prove that the services rendered to clients are worth the bill at the end of the month.
Breaking down internal siloes and streamlining processes is the best way to cut costs without compromising profits. Think about which processes you could automate to save time. Have you got the best people for the job on every project? Are non-billable tasks as efficient as they could be? Can people work on a proposal or case together easily, even if they are not in the same office?
This is where the right technology can play a huge role. Law firm management software is specially designed to ensure that important information is easy to find, work is not duplicated unnecessarily, and collaboration can take place even if employees work remotely.
Create space for collaboration
Implementing an easy-to-use intranet system can make a huge difference, but only if the people, process, and technology are aligned. A beautiful intranet with all the information anyone could ever need is pointless if no one knows it’s there, or if using it is so complicated that eventually no one bothers.
Social media can also help break down communication barriers. You probably don’t need an internal Facebook group for your firm, but some social media tools can be adapted to share data, support employees, and facilitate the exchange of ideas.
Services such as Yammer, for example, can help employees share Facebook-like status messages such as letting colleagues know where they are, what they are working on, or if they’ve got the day off. And they’re great for quick questions and chats that need immediate answers or are not important enough to warrant a full email.
Tools like Qorus Breeze Proposals enable multiple people to work on a pitch book or RFP response at the same time—essential when deadlines are tight.
And don’t discount the good ol’ discussion forum—one of the oldest collaborative tools, and still very useful for sharing and discussing ideas around a particular topic.
Focus on continuous improvement
Continually improving the way you do things is the only way to make your business better than it is today (and better than most of its competitors). Think about the last time you had to pitch for new business. How much time did you have to prepare? How much overtime was required across the team? How prepared did the team feel on the day? What can you do differently next time?
Too many firms spend too much time focusing on the minute details of their experience, reputation, and industry track record, which are all vital, but not nearly enough time on personalizing their pitches—the thing that will truly set your firm apart. Showing that you understand your prospect’s business, that you can help them achieve their objectives, and that they can trust your firm is what will win you the business at the end of the day.
Why re-invent the pitch book wheel every time you pitch, when law firm management software solutions like proposal automation exist? These tools will access your content library and pull together an up-to-date, accurate, and consistent first draft, enabling you to respond to last-minute requests for proposals and giving partners more time to focus on personalizing the content for each client, rather than wasting time looking for information or trying to fix layout issues.
And what about business continuity? Is your business safe when an attorney or partner leaves or has to take unexpected time off? Is there more than one person on each account? Is important information stored centrally so that clients feel that they are still in safe hands when their main point of contact leaves? Processes like these should be getting better every time.
Law firm management 101
People, processes, and technology are what make a winning business, but only if they fit together perfectly. Finding top talent is never easy, but giving employees the information and tools they need to do their jobs well will go a long way in retaining them. Similarly, technology can drastically improve productivity, but only when people want and know how to use it. And we all know how painful process can be if people are not bought into it.
When you get the three pieces of the puzzle to fit together, you’ll have yourself a future-proof law firm.