In this video interview, Mike Polson highlights the importance of how any change in a law firm should be driven by what their clients want and not just because ‘innovation’ is a buzzword in the legal sector at the moment. However, the biggest challenge is how law firms actually make that change happen. Law firms are risk-averse and quite traditional in how they operate. So the real challenge is how do you embed that change and make people work in different ways.
Lawyers have to win over hearts and minds of individual partners in order to get a buy-in for new ideas and it’s a gradual process. But it’s all possible by simply providing a clear direction from the top leadership and then picking the right people for the right conversations. Everything comes down to building relationships with key stakeholders.
In this interview, we also speak about other key challenges related to the legal profession such as how to reach work/life balance as a lawyer, as well as transparent pricing model and why it’s important for law firms to invest in technology.
Below you can find a transcript of this episode of Innovation Insights with Mike Polson discussing the challenges, changes and the future of the legal profession, and how a law firm can embed and benefit from innovation.
Key challenges in the legal sector
Mike Polson: Ultimately, any changes have to be driven by what clients want, and where their needs are changing. That’s where you’ve got to really start your thinking, from your clients perspective, and what they want from the law firm in the future. The biggest challenge is how you actually make that change happen in a law firm, with law being a traditional industry and lawyers trained to be quite risk-averse. Also being partnership-structured, where you have to institute change on case-by-case basis, win over hearts and minds of individuals partners and individual client teams across the different offices. It [instituting change] is a gradual process, but the biggest challenge is how you embed this change and get people to work in different ways.
How to get stakeholders to support new ideas?
M.P: The starting point is for individuals to feel that there is a welcoming environment for them to challenge old ideas, and bring new ones forward. You have to provide a clear direction from the top, that that is what’s expected of people who a part of the business and coming into it, so that any sense of barrier is removed. And then it’s picking the right people for the right conversations. A lot of it still comes down to relationships – building relationships with key stakeholders, and using these relationships to promote an idea.
Which ideas are more likely to be implemented?
M.P: There is no day of somebody pitching an idea to me, one of the first things is: how does this idea help the execution of the strategy of the firm? How is it aligned to what we are trying to achieve as a business? Is it in one of our key sectors, is it a key area of work that we are very strong in, so where is that connection the bigger picture of what we are actually trying to do?
How to achieve Work/Life balance as a lawyer?
M.P: Ultimately, law will always be a demanding sector, no doubt about that. But what we are going to see in terms of a change, I think, is how people work, where they need to do their work from. I think we will move away from this old concept of you being chained to your desk from 9 o’clock in the morning to whenever it is at night. There will be much more trust and ownership in the hands of an individual employee to work “smarter”, in a sense.
Pricing models for Law firms
M.P: There is a real desire from our clients for innovation and how we approach pricing, and not defaulting to a traditional hourly-rate billing model. We are seeing our clients talk about EFA’s – Efficient Fee Arrangements, so what they really want to know is if they get actual value for money. Potentially in a fixed-fee environment, but it’s very transparent what they are getting, what thuy are paying for.
The legal industry and technology
M.P: If you look at our business over last 2-3, maximum 5 years, you will see an increased deployment of legal technology tools into the way that we work. This allows you to do things better, faster and much more consistently, which ultimately delivers a cost-benefit for the client, which they want to see. At the same time, this is making sure that we are improving our business, that push for efficiency has got to work both ways – what the client wants, but in the context of us delivering a healthy business, that can flourish, hire the talent that we need and invest in technology going forward.
The future of the legal profession
M.P: Personally, I think that this is just a fantastic time to be involved in the legal profession. I am a positive person with regards to change, I view it as an opportunity, so it is really exciting for me to know is that my role in 12-months time will be different than my role today, and I get the opportunity to shape it. And for as long as I want to keep driving on, I will find new and interesting things to do. That is what really keeps me motivated, keeps me driven.
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