As a bit of background, this is one of the things learned from helping law firms
use technology to improve their efficiency, profitability and fix their problems. The majority of our initial projects with clients centre around paper-lite, document management and digital transformation projects. Hopefully you find this article / snippet useful. The goal is to motivate firms and help them feel empowered to move forward.
If you're concerned about how long your key clients will stay with you, or the increasing competition for winning new clients, you're not alone. Competition is not necessarily about the number of alternative law firms in your sector or geography, but more about how they position themselves to retain existing clients and win new business.
“They say, in business, if you’re standing still, you’re going backwards…well in today’s hi-tech world this could not be more true.”
If you're anything like any other SME law firm I know, you're always looking for new customers and busy processing work to retain clients you already have (to meet billable hours targets). The overall reality is that there are law firms out there who are currently reviewing their problems and bottlenecks. They are looking at how technology can aid them to fix these problems, how to digitise processes and how to increase capacity.
It tends to be the larger firms who make the ground breaking leaps in these areas. These projects are not something they started yesterday, which is then today’s news (as I’m sure you know, but it’s always worth a reminder). They have normally put a team together (from their large headcount/resource) and had their IT Director to project lead and understand the current position, identify requirements and then look at solutions.
“This is a strategic project which runs alongside all day to day activity. Something which happens whilst everyone is still delivering work and generating billable hours.”
This is the key thing to remember for an SME law firm.
If you do feel as though your current clients are under threat from the competition (which should be a healthy thought process for any firm, and any business) then you are probably right.
The advice and thing I have learnt from working with law firms in this area, is that the key to reducing stress and making progress in this area is all around taking small steps but making progress.
Don’t panic and throw everything at trying to make changes and fix things quickly. The key is to make this part of your overall strategy. Start something which runs alongside current processes and day to day business. Something which is making small weekly steps/progress.
As soon as you have a project with a clear problem to fix/goal, you can start to share with existing clients and introducers. You don’t need to have the solution 100% complete, they just need to know that you are thinking about how you can make improvements long term and how you will be moving forward so you can help serve them better and add more value. This significantly reduces the threat immediately.
Once you are at the implementation phase you can then start discussing and pitching this to new clients/prospect/panels to help you win new business and mitigate any risk.
The key is to make a start and take some pressure off. If you are running an SME Law firm (department or team) it is unlikely that you will have a large project resource available to just fix these things reactively, so you need to take a proactive approach. Here is a simple one to remember…one which most people don't give themselves credit for...
You're already part of a team which is running a law firm. This means everyone has a role, and everyone has billable hours to deliver (or support). I have yet to see an SME law firm with the time or resource available, outside of their day to day tasks, to effectively take on additional projects to increase efficiency and reduce operating costs alongside their current required tasks. If you want to take on a strategic project (which this is, as there are no quick fixes) then you will be better positioned with some additional resource to deal with this.
It's not that you can't do this alone. It's much harder, more stressful and higher risk. You will be far better positioned to make progress if you have someone who can sit outside of the day to day, "above" the transactional level. Someone who can work with your people to map current processes and design a digital solution which meets their needs, removes all bottlenecks, duplication, frustration and engages them so they buy into the new solution.
Advice: Cut yourself some slack and stop trying to change the wheels on a moving car...
If you want to move to a more digital / paper-lite way of working or would like to discuss how technology can help you increase efficiency and profitability, then feel free to connect or arrange an initial phone call. I'm always happy to speak with prospective clients and just offer some free initial advice.
Lots of firms believe that technology can help them fix their current problems, but they are not entirely sure how. If you have current challenges which you believe can be helped with technology, then feel free to drop me a line.
Thank you for reading. Hopefully this has been helpful.
Author: Alex Hutchinson – Director
I spend my time helping SME law firms with Paper-Lite, Document Management and Digital Transformation projects. Our goals are to deliver results which improve the productivity of their people, and streamline working processes. Outcomes which fix their current problems, increasing capacity, profitability and creating a more EFFICIENT Law Firm.