The Top 10 Biggest Trends Every Law Firm Partner Should Know
The news is in: technology has arrived and it’s here to stay.
From real estate to journalism, technology is taking the working world by storm. And the legal industry is at the top of the list for technological takeover.
But don’t worry, this isn’t the beginning of a courtroom-based horror movie. Regardless of the hype and headlines, the truth is law firm partners and leaders need to know what's coming if they want to stay ahead by taking advantage of the many perks technology can offer.
And to help make sure you’re safely buckled in for the technological rollercoaster the law industry is set to ride, we’ve consulted with some of the legal industry's leading experts to reveal biggest trends headed your way.
#1. Generation Y is making waves
“Managing partners will need to fundamentally change the way they hire and oversee their staff, in order to keep the best workers.”
— Jared Correia, CEO at Red Cave Law Firm Consulting
That’s right, the millennials are coming—and there are a lot of them.
According to industry veterans like Jared Correia we should be preparing for this new generation as staunchly as Jon Snow is for his impending winter.
Jared, CEO at Red Cave Law Firm Consulting, has been advising lawyers and law firms for over a decade. “The coming of the millennial generation… is the biggest upcoming challenge to face existing law firms,” he says.
Typically defined as those born between the early 1980s and late 1990s, this group of twenty- and thirty-somethings makes up a large segment of the current and future workforce.
So, should you be worried?
Well, unlike Jon Snow’s winter, they don’t come with an intent to kill—so that’s something to be thankful for. In fact, the main thing to be aware of is that millennials come with new expectations and priorities - they “value far different things (e.g. flexibility over money), than prior generations of American workers have,” says Jared.
According to Deloitte’s survey of over 10,000 millennials across 36 countries, attracting and retaining workers is actually fairly simple: the key to employee loyalty is diversity, flexibility and a healthy working culture.
#2. Mass personalization is on the rise
“Leverage technology, systems, processes and customer service to provide a beneficial, valuable and efficient experience.”
— Adam Camras, CEO at LAWgical
Speaking of open arms, it’s time to get personal.
Could you have imagined 20 years ago that more than 2 billion people would be logging onto Facebook every day to share some of their most intimate photos, stories and opinions?
If that’s not the personalization of technology, we don’t know what is.
And personalization is exactly what consumers are starting to expect—even when it comes to legal services.
In fact, according to a recent report, mass personalization is the way forward for business. Consumers are being empowered by social media and digital devices to ask for what they want, when they want it.
That’s why experts like Adam Camras, who runs Legal Talk Network, the leading producer of legal related podcasts, suggest you utilize all available tools to create the best experience for clients.
When asked ‘what’s the #1 biggest change that law firm partners need to prepare for?’, Adam told us, “Delivering legal services the way their client's want it. This means finding ways to leverage technology, systems, processes and customer service to provide a beneficial, valuable and efficient experience.” If you don't already have a smart, central CRM to help you do that, the time to get one is now.
#3. Legaltech is the new black
“Becoming forward-looking with purpose will go a long way to helping your law firm continue to survive in the age of #LegalTech.”
— Stacey Burke, Attorney and Owner at Stacey E. Burke, P.C.
But where technology’s concerned, we all need the occasional reminder to shed our traditional skins and learn to bend to the trend to get ahead.
Stacey Burke, Attorney and Owner at Stacey E. Burke, P.C., certainly thinks so. “The biggest change every law firm partner needs to prepare for is technology continuing to advance beyond what we can even comprehend right now,” she says.
As an award-winning lawyer and marketer, Stacey knows exactly how technology impacts the way law practices are run. “Staying not just up-to-date, but also becoming forward-looking” is the best way firms can keep up with technological advances, such as artificial intelligence and blockchain.
According to a 2019 report by the Law Society, there is increased pressure for law firms to adopt lawtech, and a rising awareness that law firms that adopt technology will have a competitive advantage over those who don’t.
In other words, to stay ahead of the game, you need to embrace the change and keep your eyes looking firmly forward.
#4. Communication is key
“The #1 biggest change every law firm partner needs to prepare for is changing the way we communicate with clients.”
— Jamie Lieberman, Partner at Hashtag Legal LLC
Remember the days of pen, paper and fax machines?
Fortunately, times have moved on and we no longer have to deal with the screechy whine of the connection-dial every time we want to send a document.
Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to change our ways as quickly as clients want us to.
With over a decade in the law industry, specializing in working with influencers, agencies and brands, Jamie Lieberman has watched the world of communication change.
Her insider communication knowledge empowers her to tell it like it is: “Lawyers must be accessible and trustworthy… this means being responsive and listening to their needs, even if it is not the way you have done business in the past.”
In a 2017 poll by iLawyermarketing, 57% of participants indicated that they would use a smartphone to connect with new lawyer firms. So, what does this tell us? That you need to get tech-friendly.
Every firm needs a mobile-friendly website, every firm needs to pick up the phone, and every firm needs to get cosy with video-calling.
Because communication means speaking your customer's language.
So if, like Jamie’s, your customers ask you to speak through less traditional communication methods, it’s definitely time to put on your Sunday best and brave the camera phone.
#5. Valuable legal services are the new priority
“The true value of lawyers will continue to shift toward "symbolic analysis.”
— Gyi Tsakalakis, President at AttorneySync
Times are a’changing, people. And the days of lawyers relying on ‘routine production services’ is coming to an apocalyptic-style ending.
Okay, maybe a little dramatic.
But as digital legal marketing expert, Gyi Tsakalakis, puts it, “While clients will continue to value the ‘in-person services’ aspects of legal counsel, the true value of lawyers will continue to shift toward ‘symbolic analysis,’ or the ability to manipulate symbols like data, words, and visual representations.”
In other words, thanks to the increasing abilities of technology, the majority of legal work will shift from routine services towards creative, outside-the-box-style thinking, ie., the kind of work a robot would be horrible at.
Research shows that, based on the limits of current technologies, 69% of time could be automatable for paralegals and 23% for lawyers. Imagine all that Google-style free-time that could be used for creative thinking.
If technology keeps this up, in 50 years’ time the legal industry is going to be a very different automation-ruled place.
Which leads us nicely onto #6…
#6. Digital transformation is the way forward
“Take your practice through a digital transformation.”
— Kenneth A. Grady, Adjunct Professor & Research Fellow at Michigan State University College of Law
Who was it that said change is the spice of life?
Well, they must have been right because expert Kenneth Grady clearly agrees with them. He tells us that “to compete [with automation] you must take your practice through a digital transformation.”
It’s no secret that the legal landscape has been shifting since the economic collapse in 2018 and while many law firms have utilized digital transformation in order to shift alongside these changes, there is still a long way to go.
As a law professor with an interest in artificial intelligence and the future of law, Kenneth knows an opportunity for growth when he sees one.
“Every law firm partner needs to prepare for a future (which is heading toward us quickly) where automation plays a big role in delivering legal services,” he says, “That means billing for value delivered instead of time.”
So what are you waiting for? Start embracing your own version of a digital transformation and ensure your firm makes automation a friend, not an enemy.
#7. Systemizing your services has never felt better
“It’s so easy to throw your firm into upheaval if you don’t have good systems in place.”
— Erin Levine, Founder & CEO at Hello Divorce
Sometimes relationships have to end and unfortunately that includes working relationships, too.
“Employees leave for a variety of reasons. It’s so easy to throw your firm into upheaval if you don’t have good systems in place.” From a woman that helps people prepare for divorce, Erin Levine has some truly golden advice.
According to a report by The Right Profile and JD Match, staff turnover costs the top 400 US law firms a cool $9.1 billion per year. They put this down, in part, to hiring decisions and unstructured interview processes.
So what do you do when the inevitable happens?
As a Super Lawyer and influential family lawyer, Erin knows a thing or two about creating easy-to-follow systems that ensure your firm is prepared for those moments.
“You want to have a flexible firm that thrives on a team approach and ensures that all staff members are trained to “jump in” when…an employee exits the firm,” she says.
That means automating your systems, centralizing passwords and making sure you keep your firm ship-shape so that your workload stays on track if you lose a member of staff.
The moral of the story?
Make sure you take the time to get these processes in place. It will save you a heck of a lot of time and money, in the long run.
#8. There’s no more hiding from alternative legal service delivery models
“We should all be taking steps to increase [our] efficiency and accessibility in a consumer centric way.”
— Billie Tarascio, Owner at Modern Law, Modern Law Practice and Access Legal
You’ve got a deadline creeping up, the nights are getting longer, and it feels like the only thing in the world is the case you’re working on.
Whether you’re racing towards a deadline, or welcoming new clients, it can seem like it’s never the right time to lift your head up out of the books and take a moment to look around.
But as Billie Tarascio, owner of Modern Law, Modern Law Practice and Access Legal, puts it, “The most important thing is for law firm owners or partners to be aware of the businesses around them and how they operate.”
As a ‘Client Distinction’ award-winning family lawyer, Billie is known for jumping ahead of the competition to provide niche services that her customers really need.
And she’s the first to remind us that “the future of law could go a lot of different ways.”
Already demand is increasing for non-traditional law firms. What other alternative legal service delivery models are hiding in the woodwork?
As Billie puts it, “We could end up allowing outside investment and Walgreens, or Costco, or Walmart may end up having legal clinics in their stores. We could end up with Amazon investing in legal and making online services available to the masses.”
Whatever happens, if you're willing and able to keep your eyes on the competitive landscape, you’ll have the ability to jump ahead quickly when it matters most.
#9. Get ahead or fall behind
"If your competitors are already doing it, it's time to consider updating your business process."
— Madaline Zannes, Legal Technology Expert & Owner, Zanneslaw.com
On that note, experts like Madaline Zannes warn against following the competition too closely.
The legal technology expert is known for her contributions to leading publications like Inman, Thrive and HuffPost. According to Madaline, yes. Client expectations are undoubtedly shifting.
But that doesn't necessarily mean that any change you make will be the right one.
"Client expectations are shifting. Innovation and technological growth in virtually every market has driven a demand for more flexibility, transparency, and better connectivity within the client relationship. If your competitors are already doing it, it's time to consider updating your business process," she warns.
The partners who succeed in staying relevant long-term will be those who can break free of herd mentality and start using smart tech their way.
#10. Change happens
"Just as new AI tools allow computers to read X-rays a thousand times faster than a radiologist - and with greater accuracy - new tools are emerging that do the same for legal work."
— Prof. Gabe Teninbaum, Director of the Institute on Legal Innovation & Technology at Suffolk University Law School
Can you imagine life before the X-ray machine?
Neither can we.
Fact of the matter is, no matter how daunting the tech shift may be, it's pretty much par for the course. And according to Professor Gabe Teninbaum, Director of the Institute on Legal Innovation & Technology at Suffolk University Law School, these shifts are to be both expected and embraces.
"Just as new AI tools allow computers to read X-rays a thousand times faster than a radiologist - and with greater accuracy - new tools are emerging that do the same for legal work. Being aware of what these tools are, and how to use them, is vital to doing the best possible job representing clients, as well as to maintaining the health of the firm," says Gabe.
Whether it's using a simple e-signature tool to save your team time or centralizing your firm through a sophisticated CRM to deliver a faster, better service to your clients, technology is here to stay. Figure out how to use it to your best advantage, and your firm will have a lasting legacy, too.