Finding Your Firm’s ‘Inner Beauty’ for Competitive Advantage
By Peter Richards, Senior Vice President, Business Development EMEA at ayfie Group
Technology has been changing businesses and how we work. While the legal sector has traditionally been known to be rather conservative, the last three years have seen technology begin to disrupt the legal sector, which is challenging law firms to redefine their internal processes, assess their business models and differentiate their services by leveraging these new technologies.
The legal marketplace is crowded and competition is fierce. Law firms that underestimate the increasing momentum of digitalisation and the technology driving it will lose their competitive edge, and with that, existing customers, future deals and revenue. First movers and fast followers who are embracing innovative technologies are developing a learning advantage and will position themselves as thought- and market leaders.
More and more companies are acknowledging that: Recent studies show that 53% of law firms indicated that they were increasing their technology  budget. Many of these innovators start by leveraging their internal knowledge base to deliver the best experience for their employees and clients.
The law firm’s challenge in the digital universe
Digital transformation and the use of Aided Intelligence (AI) to improve processes is impacting every aspect of business life. Digitalisation is about automating processes, becoming data-driven and developing innovative products and services that leverage insights and optimize workflows to make more efficient use of lawyers’ time and knowledge. 11% of law firms are already evaluating an AI strategy, and the number is growing.
Time is of the essence as the legal landscape is going through dramatic change. The ROI of all activities is now measurable and more important than ever. Efficiency is key as lawyers need to deliver quick results while competing with other law firms. By using AI solutions, remedial tasks can be conducted in just a fraction of the time, enabling lawyers to spend their time on issues that require special legal and human expertise.
Law firms need to excel at leveraging internal assets to get competitive differentiation, and to rephrase Richard Branson: ‘You need to be good on the inside to appear good on the outside.’
Apart from these aspects, the employment market is also changing due to digital transformation. Nowadays, law firms are confronted by the fact that lawyers have higher expectations towards their employer and it’s becoming increasingly challenging to find skilled employees with knowledge of data, analytics and new legal tech tools that have surfaced over the last three years. A lot of lawyers – especially the younger generations – expect to spend their time and skills on core law and not traditional research and administrative work.
Finding the inner and outer uniqueness
Law firms that want to excel within the new legal tech landscape should start with their ‘inner beauty’, including employee appreciation, processes, technology and their knowledge base.
Firms need to be able to differentiate their services by leveraging what has made them unique: their experiences, strategic approach and judgement, something that is not easily copied by other law firms and which is valued by both their employees and clients. By leveraging and tapping into the company’s internal assets like data, people and knowledge, they can define what is their essence and strength.
For employees, there are a variety of items that makes a law firm attractive as an employer: It starts with interesting tasks, clients and cases to work on, and culminates with the development of holistic skillsets and working in expert teams of other qualified lawyers and inspiring line managers that ensure employees develop and feel positively challenged.
Other items can of course be the salary and benefit packages, the location of the office, reputation of the firm or flexible working models that might be offered. An important aspect that has become more and more important over the last couple of years is the question: ‘How innovative is the law firm?’
In particular, younger lawyers want to know if a firm is forward thinking and leverages the latest legal technology to improve workflows and help them do their work faster and more accurately.
Associates and junior lawyers are tired of spending time on repetitive work and running around to find relevant information, and they expect their firm’s knowledge to be structured in an easily accessible and efficient manner. Law firms who don’t adopt a modern digital workspace approach risk falling behind when it comes to hiring qualified staff.
By leveraging and sharing experience and knowledge across the organisation for competitive differentiation, the company will deliver even better results on the inside as well as the outside.
Data and analytics are a lawyer’s best friend
Several of the factors for inner and outer uniqueness, especially when it comes to knowledge management, can be supported by legal tech. Law firms need to know their unique selling points and implement processes to strengthen them to remain or become the leading law firm in their area.
All firms should excel in business intelligence and especially in Knowledge Discovery, the process of discovering relevant knowledge from an ever expanding collection of unstructured digital data.
Dispersed and inaccessible data inhibits a firm’s performance and firms who have control of their data can provide better insight, faster service and provide better working conditions for their employees.
Legal technology providers can offer easy-to-implement solutions to make sense of unstructured data like emails, instant messaging, zip files or OCR scans to make valuable insights accessible. By using AI solutions focused on text analytics and information retrieval formerly manual and mundane tasks can be automated, freeing up a lawyer’s time to use their skills on higher-level tasks and focus on solving advanced legal issues and provide better client counsel.
A team of qualified and innovative lawyers with a blend of legal and technical expertise, can create a competitive advantage and differentiation from firms who are slower to embrace disruptive technologies.
Law firms who are on top of their data have a competitive edge. Providing increased efficiency and excellent value for money will deliver significant return on investment, for both the clients and the firm.