Industry analysis

Industry analysis

Further firm innovation is crucial

Vincent Perrin, regional vice president of professional services, Salesforce UK and Ireland, says law firms have reached a new crossroads in the potential of data, technology and collaboration that could dramatically transform client service and satisfaction

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Leading law firms are transforming how lawyers approach their work. They are innovating at speed, breaking down internal silos, while at the same time legal services are no longer passive but proactive. The global pandemic has accelerated many changes, not least digitalisation, working from home and more data-led services.

Yet many law firm providers still have a traditional operational blueprint. They’ve built a lawyer-centric business, populated it with great partners, and expect the clients to come. This ‘Field of Dreams’ model worked in the past, but it’s no longer effective today, and neither is an outdated technology strategy that underpins it.

Many tech deployments at law firms over the last three decades have been inward-facing. Software and hardware has been purchased to ‘fix’ tech issues, normally best-of-breed – brought in by IT teams but standalone in nature. Fast forward 30 years and the result is a complex state of affairs, with many separate point solutions, disjointed data streams, silos and legacy infrastructure.

Right now, there simply isn’t enough value being derived from these tools or the vast tranches of data that law firms hold. It means that a lot of money and time is needed, either to innovate or just to meet fast-evolving client needs.

Why change a successful model?

The question is – why should law firms change when they’re still highly profitable? The fact is that times have changed, and so have client expectations, rising steeply. A new approach is needed.

It’s why data-empowerment and client-centricity are now a key focus for the profession. With digital transformation programmes going on in both clients and law firms themselves, lawyers are now at a new crossroads of technology, data and novel ways of working. The ‘art of the possible’ is very much within their grasp.   

Many law firm providers still have a traditional operational blueprint. They’ve built a lawyer-centric business, populated it with great partners, and expect the clients to come

The profession has typically prioritised outcomes over client experience. Law firms have also measured success by their own internal metrics – profit per partner, billable hours and staff targets, or cases won. Forward-looking law firms are now changing this approach. They’re becoming more client-focused and outward-looking. They’re ensuring their services are optimised for those they serve.

The definition of success is not just one of transaction volumes and fees at the end of a case. It is about the client experience and customer satisfaction. Key metrics and tools in the digitally-driven age, such as net promoter score (NPS), lawyer ratings and reviews, are increasingly vital.

Clients are also moving away from a single-threaded relationship with a law firm. They are happy to use more services from one provider, but only if this one-stop-shop is cohesive and collaborative, with a truly joined-up approach to services. This expectation is being met in many other professions, although it’s yet to be fully developed in law firms.

Time to value has shifted dramatically for many in global business, and firms are not exempt. The faster a solution solves a problem for a client, the better the client experience and the more money the client will either make or not lose. The pace of change in many sectors means that data, expectations and market conditions are evolving fast.

The profession has typically prioritised outcomes over client experience. Law firms have also measured success by their own internal metrics – profit per partner, billable hours and staff targets, or cases won. Forward-looking law firms are now changing this approach

Bespoke client solutions that deliver value to the law firm and its clients must now be formulated in weeks, not months. But are law firms evolving to meet this challenge?

It helps that getting access to data, collaboration, one client view, data visualisation, and therefore value from data, is now much easier to achieve than at any point in history. The pandemic has taught us how agile people and operations can be – and must continue to be.

So, why are archaic processes slowly returning? The fact is that some law firms are still doing the same things they’ve always done in their desire to innovate. They’re turning to the same providers and point-solutions, but expecting different results, in order to enact that art of the possible.

The legal profession across the globe also continues to see itself as unique, but it can learn a lot from innovation in other industries. Client expectations today don’t have boundaries. Partnering with organisations such as Salesforce, with a vast experience in many other sectors as well as law, matters. Leading firms may be trailblazing and innovating, but there’s still a way to go. We can help.

For more information, see the Salesforce e-book/video: The Future of Law Firms