Visioning the Future: Law Firm Operations and Technology
Two top pressing concerns firms face nowadays are operational efficiency and operational consistency. Navigating a firm through existing operational disarray and into more efficiency and consistency requires a certain kind of vision and action on the part of administrators and leaders. It requires firms to look past the quick fixes to identify and implement long-term solutions informed by metrics. John Cummens spoke to this in an interview for Law Practice on the role of managing partners:
MPs should be concerned about creating the vision of what their firms should become in the next five to ten years. Sometimes when we do strategic planning we are merely doing more of the same. There should be consideration of “out of the box” alternatives and options, even as crazy as they may seem. It means asking, “If you could design a firm completely from scratch, and have it any way you want, what would it look like?” Vision involves seeing something that does not now exist, not just more of the same of what you have right now.
While Cummens specifically addresses the role of MPs, his statement applies to all firm administrators and those involved with firm operations on every level.
The process of creating sustainable, evolving efficiency begins with one significant question: What is the overall need or goal? In the article The New and Evolving Legal Department Operations Role, Mike Haysley writes that legal operations now also encompass more strategic areas, including:
- Defining objectives, levers, KPIs, and measuring for success
- Opportunity spotting and ROI measurements
- Information governance and compliance management
- Facilitating globalization efforts
These more strategic tasks and vision building require firms and their leaders to move forward creatively, asking the question: how do we pursue our goals with the resources we have?
One of the most obvious answers to both the pursuit of efficiency and vision is technology. Every firm already has it in many forms. It’s also common for firms to underutilize the technology they’ve invested in. According to Donald Williams,
Technology is one of the keys to both more cost-effective legal services and improved client service. Many firms have excellent technology platforms but management does not push for effective use of technology, leaving a major asset largely untapped. Education on the uses of technology is haphazard and often ignored by those who could derive benefit. Smart management will enhance its competitive position by strong support and involvement in its technology program and by pushing it forward.
Williams asserts that the proper use of technology is the path forward. It is the foundational tool that will allow firms to develop their vision on a macro scale while increasing efficiency and consistency on a micro scale. However, technology requires training and support to be fully utilized. Therefore, the future of law firm operations and legal practice does not necessarily reside in the latest technology, but in the full and proper use of the technology each firm has. This enables firms to function more efficiently and see where they truly need to invest their attention and resources to achieve their goals and move towards their vision.