Over the past two years, the pace of change has dramatically accelerated in the global legal sector. Law firms have upped their game. RSG, as a long-established strategy consultancy and research partner to the FT Innovative Lawyers programme, has a unique knowledge of how law firms innovate. We investigate the innovations of over 200 law firms globally, in-depth, every year.
So what are the most advanced law firms actually doing? We share our top 3 insights into what firms need to do to stay in the game.
- Get a legal engineer! It has been notoriously difficult to get lawyers to use technology effectively. However, many firms are now overcoming that problem through a ‘legal engineer’. This is basically a new professional role in firms and can be filled either by a lawyer with deep technology expertise, or a technologist who gathers deep legal domain expertise. They can be partners who are entrepreneurial and with an enthusiasm for delivering services differently. Or young law graduates who eschew formal law firm training to become lawyers in different ways. Or, as is the case with one firm, a theoretical physicist! The important element here is the fusion of knowledge of the firm, law and technology – seamlessly. We see that even one legal engineer can make an inordinate impact on their organisations.
- Put the human into the centre of your innovation strategy: Innovation is not just about technology or standardising legal processes. It is often about simple tweaks or step-improvements. Many European law firms have seen their innovation agendas become more powerful simply by putting the human experience at the centre of the process. Methodologies such as design thinking and the concept of the “Minimum Viable Product” favoured by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs is spreading in law firms. The idea is to start with the human experience first, rapidly develop a product or offering to answer the human challenge, test a beta version of the product and take it to market. It inculcates the idea that experimentation and failure is OK. It represents nothing short of a cultural revolution in law firms. It both engages younger lawyers and makes innovation accessible to older ones.
- Wrap up better service delivery into your law firm brand: In the early days of the FT Innovative Lawyers programme, efficient service delivery was considered innovative. No more. Now most firms have efficient service delivery options that combine flexible resourcing, low cost centres, project management and analytical, collaborative or machine learning technology. The next iteration is to integrate these offerings, brand them internally, and then take them to market under the firm’s quality advisory brand. Some firms have made these offerings separate profit centres within the firm, others have made them stand-alone businesses. But whichever route is taken, using the law firm brand to market improved and expanded service delivery options is actually compelling for clients. The good news is that not many law firms are doing it well – as yet.