Is technology the answer to everything?

Three of the most interesting drivers that affect the legal sector at the moment are technology related. I’m not saying that the remaining three PEST factors aren’t valid; it’s just that, at the moment, these are the ones that resonate the most with me.

  • The competitive landscape is changing. Firms are facing pressure not only from other traditional law firms and ABS structures, but also from a growth in providers that are fuelled by advances in technology. A perfect and very vivid example of this was the recent news that law firm Baker & Hostetler has employed “the world’s first artificially intelligent attorney”, Ross. The mere thought of this blows my mind. If I was one of Ross’ 50 co-workers in the bankruptcy practice, I’d be looking to either a) update my CV or b) try and make myself indispensable and remind my superiors and clients of my real-life skills. Either way, I’m sure I wouldn’t be sitting on my laurels.
  • The second driver is outsourcing – nothing new, but it now seems more prevalent. News of deals whereby firm X announces that they are outsourcing Y is now so common that formal notifications of such deals barely elicit a ‘click and read’ when an email alerts pop in.
  • The third driver (which can be linked to outsourcing) is the eternal quest for efficiencies that are gained through improved digital infrastructure. When I say digital infrastructure, I am thinking of software that enables more efficient management of information and processes. CRM systems, project management systems and automated billing are now part and parcel of day-to-day life. Never before have we had it so good.

Technology can empower people to make more informed decisions. It cannot, however, replace them completely. Let’s think about this from a client perspective. They have no visibility of (but they do appreciate the cost savings such efforts elicit) the in-house functions that are so readily outsourced or performed by robots. They do, however, regularly speak with their key lawyers and account managers. More often than not, the advice they seek will be of the kind that is worth paying a premium for, so it is important that fee earners and client teams can demonstrate that they understand their business or culture.

 So what are your options?

There are many ways to demonstrate to your clients that you value their business. You don’t need to be a jack of all trades, but you do need to be a master of some. Putting in place a meaningful client engagement programme is just one way to create a real point of difference in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

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