Six digital habits modern law firms must adopt to remain competitive

I recently took part in Osprey Approach’s webinar series, which looked at ways that modern law firms could ‘Build Better Habits’. I joined as a panellist on episode one which discussed the benefits of implementing an effective digital operational strategy. It was great to share ideas around this concept with my fellow panellists Cecile Papin, partner lead at Coadjute and Alex Simons, new business manager at The Law Factory.

What is a ‘digital-first’ mindset?

Our host for the event, Amy Bruce, Osprey’s marketing manager, began by asking what a “digital-first” mindset should mean for modern law firms. The panel agreed that it’s not about specific technologies or digital tools, but about the people – employees and clients – who use them. Cecile noted that digitalisation is an organisational change that is related to your people and processes.

I shared the two strategies that digitally successful law firms are focusing on: first, the drive for simplicity and second, putting the customer and the centre of what they’re doing. In today’s climate, it’s important that firms create a customer-centric culture that aims to provide digital solutions to any current challenge or opportunity. Firms really need to be flexible in their approach to communicating with clients.

Because a digital-first mindset helps to connect a firm’s people and processes, it then ensures they can take advantage of the opportunities that technology presents.

What challenges can SME law firms overcome by being ‘digital-first’?

Amy asked what specific challenges a digital-first mindset can help SME law firms overcome, which I believe comprises: operational efficiency, scalability, innovation, staff retention or recruitment, managing client expectations, and profit erosion.

Alex added that, “when time is money, it’s easy to negatively impact your bottom line if your operational processes are inefficient and your overhead costs are high,” warning that, “if you’re constantly playing catch up because your costs are spiralling, that’s when people become stressed and that’s when you start to lose good talent.”

Cecile explained how digitalisation helps to refocus goals and priorities: “The process of being digital-first means you must start by taking a deep look at your current processes to establish what can be automated and transformed. That enables you and your team to collectively realign and refocus on priorities and goals.

“Then, with your new digital tools, you can begin to measure the benefits and progress of digitalisation through a variety of KPIs.”

Six habits modern law firms should consider

We agreed that modern law firms should focus on the following habits when implementing a digital operational strategy to reap the maximum benefit:

  1. Communicate your vision

To successfully implement any new business strategy or digital tool, responsibility and ownership are key to success and every firm needs to have a clear vision from the leadership team, so that they understand how the technology can benefit them and the implications for the firm long-term so, making it easier to choose the right partner, solution, and measure success.

  1. Be client-focused

Always have the client in mind when implementing new processes or digital tools. This requires an understanding of client’s needs, knowing what drives them, and how firms can provide value.

  1. Keep it simple

It’s important not to overcomplicate the relationship between technology and commercials. Ensure the tools invested in will help the firm to fulfil its vision and business goals, and meet your clients’ and employees’ needs, without adding additional layers of complexity.

  1. Protect your data

Law firms are a high-risk industry for cybercrime, so when digitalising your operations ensure that it protects both the firm’s and client’s data. Cecile advised that it’s important to “have data security at the heart of everything you do. We know the impact that a security breach can have.”

  1. Standardise your processes

Before investing in any new software, law firms should start by reviewing and documenting existing processes so it’s clear how the digital tools will help to standardise, automate, and enhance. Alex made the point that “[case management] software is a great tool to make daily tasks easier for you, but you need to get your processes documented.”

  1. Stay on system

Law firms will only achieve a return on their software investment if its capabilities are fully utilised. It’s important to dedicate enough time to staff training and ensure communication is clear on the benefits a new system or process will provide.

Improving legal tech utilisation

A law firm’s culture impacts software adoption because it determines the relationships and attitudes towards change, experimentation, success, and failure. Cecile added that “it’s important to establish a culture of innovation within a law firm. You have to assess how the firm will react during periods of experimentation and which structures, behaviours, and goals must be in place to enable innovation.”

Without the utilisation of technology across the firm it’ll be impossible to maximise returns. It’s often the case that firms have 80% of people who adopt technology and then 20% who are laggards – they still do things the ‘old way’ – and that’s where you’ll have inefficiency problems.

Modern law firms must have a clear strategy to increase tech utilisation. You also need people leading the way, who take ownership of the strategy and communicate with their team effectively.

To gain further insight and contributions from the panel discussion, you can watch the episode on-demand now, or you can read the full webinar round-up here.

To find out more about how successful modern law firms are building Better Business Habits, access all four episodes of Osprey Approach’s webinar series here

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