Law firms aren’t known for their willingness to embrace innovation. But ignore innovation at your peril. So, what exactly do I mean by innovation? In a law firm, innovation can mean any number of things. Here are just a few areas that are ripe for innovation in most law firms.
- Re-examining how you deliver your services
- Considering value pricing or alternative fee agreements
- Providing flex-time to employees or allowing them to work virtually
- Expanding your core competencies around business and leadership
- Leveraging cloud-based case management or other services
Innovation matters because if you’re not innovating you’re being commoditized. Innovation matters because law firms that don’t innovate will lose clients to the firms that do or to online legal service providers. Innovation matters because law firms that are afraid to try anything new will continue on the slow decline into obsolescence. And for lawyers, the decline into obsolescence isn’t so slow.
There is strong evidence that unprecedented changes in practice are producing a restructuring in the way legal services are delivered. These changes include widespread access to legal information, the routinization of many legal tasks, demands by clients for more control of legal service delivery, and the emergence of an increasingly competitive marketplace. This restructuring in the way legal services are delivered affects all law firms—regardless of size, geographic location, and substantive practice area—although it may impact different firms in different ways. Clients are seeking more efficient services, predictable fees, and increased responsiveness to their needs, and they are willing to replace their lawyers if they are not satisfied with the services they receive.
New York State Bar Association: Report of the Task Force on the Future of the Legal Profession, February 2011
The practice of law is not what it was ten years ago or five years ago or even three years ago when the report above was released. Pressures from an uncertain economy, the demands of clients, the phenomenal pace of technology and the never-ending search for more balance and more profits are creating the need for radical changes in how law firms are run. Law firms that want to do more than merely survive in the years ahead should think seriously about how they operate.
Have you introduced any innovations in your firm? I’d love to hear about them.