Posted by Chris Pucci, CEO of Legal Futures Associate Osprey Approach
Every successful business will follow a set of fundamental business habits that helps them run a smooth operation. Regardless of your goals, running a successful law firm involves mastering the basics and adopting habits that help you remain competitive.
In LPM’s recently published Frontiers 2022 report, 78% of SME law firms said recruitment challenges presented them with the biggest strategic change consideration, while this year’s Briefing Report found the majority of leaders (66%) said maximising productivity was at the top of their list when it came to IT strategy and future investment.
This seems to suggest that a growing number of firms are realising the need to empower their staff in order to deliver a great client service.
The overriding message from the reports is that, no matter your firm’s size, focusing on implementing the right technology is what will help you remain competitive whilst attracting and retaining good people.
Whether that’s utilising existing solutions or implementing new ones, it’s those practices that take a digital-first approach which pose the biggest threat.
A key reason this resonates more than ever is the move to hybrid working. Frontiers found that 75% of law firm leaders were in the process of repurposing shared work spaces, with most expecting two to be the average number of days per week their staff would be in the office.
Echoing this, the LPM report showed that only 15% of SME law firms were expecting their employees to go back to the office full time, meaning flexible digital tools are key for operational effectiveness.
Building successful habits
Your business habits decide your brand’s personality, business reputations and how you’re perceived. Even the smallest habits, when combined, have a great impact on overall performance and therefore the longevity of a firm.
Without good operational, compliance, and client service habits in place, legal professionals are inflicting unnecessary restrictions on themselves, hindering their chances of meeting their goals, exceeding client expectations or having a stress-free workload.
Building successful habits creates freedom to focus on the bigger picture and those wider goals. It frees the team from being occupied by the daily tasks and provides the luxury of time and space to look for improvements, make change, and drive the firm forward.
The fundamental digital habits of a modern law firm
Without purpose, habits don’t stick. The processes and habits you implement need to connect with your firm’s wider goals and ambitions. Otherwise, your team may easily slip back into older, less effective habits.
Habits help to shape your firm’s brand and defines how you’re perceived by your employees, clients and prospects. This is why we’ve categorised below the key habits law firms should adopt into four fundamental mindsets needed for these habits to stick, be sustainable and have an impact.
Mindset 1: Think ‘digital-first’
Having a digital-first strategy sets the foundation for all subsequent habits. To operate successfully, directors and partners need to have a digital-focused operational strategy that is more than simply a ‘working from home’ policy.
Thinking digital-first is about adopting an ‘anywhere’ operations strategy that ensures your business can operate, collaborate and service clients without the reliance on physical locations, infrastructure or processes, proving the ultimate flexibility and continuity. See our guide on this.
This mindset should help your firm identify transformational changes you can make to your daily habits that embraces technology to make daily workloads easier, hybrid-working simpler, and going paperless the aim.
There are several habits you can adopt to achieve this, including working primarily from your practice and case management solution (PCMS), digitally time recording and implementing standardised workflows.
Mindset 2: Be client-focused
The success of any modern law firm will rely heavily on the quality of client service you can provide and firms are clearly prioritising this; LPM showed customer relationship and client experience solutions were firms’ top priorities for their next tech investment.
Client portals and apps were also ranked number one for competitiveness and efficiency impact, and yet 59% of firms ranked managing client communications and expectations as their biggest challenge this year.
This highlights the need for a culture shift in how we view the client, which will enable us to utilise better the tools at our disposal to manage expectations.
A key benchmark of the value you provide to your clients is how timely, convenient and personal the service is – regardless of the legal support you have offered.
Implementing digital client-focused habits will help you to reduce friction in your clients’ experiences so you can stand out from the crowd, win and retain new business, as well as compete with larger firms, who 54% of SMEs believe are their biggest threat.
Mindset 3: Continuous improvement
To run a continually effective operation, your fundamental processes need to be reviewed so habits don’t become stale and inefficient.
When a task becomes a habit, it can easily be overlooked and therefore can become ineffective to your firm as technology, clients and goals change. Having a continuous improvement mindset will ensure you’re always optimising for the best outcome and preventing your firm from becoming irrelevant.
LPM discovered that 43% of firms believe choosing/optimising back-office technology for business efficiency was the organisational challenge that caused them the most concern. This highlights that a continuous improvement mindset and plan, which would enable ongoing improvement, is yet to be implemented.
To facilitate this mindset, you first need to document existing processes and habits. Knowing how things are currently done will enable you to identify challenges and areas for improvements and will highlight how tech can enhance each process.
The associated habits you’ll need to adopt include scheduling regular firm-wide updates to ensure your team is on board with this mindset; encouraging ideas for improvements; and monitoring how these efforts have impacted your overall goals using the data from your PCMS.
Mindset 4: Empower employees
With your processes, technology, and clients taken care of, the final mindset is to empower employees. Given the recruitment challenges firms face, empowering your employees to perform their best and achieve their goals is crucial to the longevity of your firm.
As one of the biggest investments you’ll make for your business, look to empower your team with the right digital tools and freedom to grow to be a successful modern law firm that will attract the best talent.
Some of the habits you’ll need to achieve success in this area include implementing regular one-to-one time with the team to provide a safe space for feedback and discussion, scheduling time for training – well in advance – and arming staff with the digital tools required to do their job effectively.
You can find out more about the habits and tools needed to facilitate each of the four mindsets outlined above in our fundamental guide, download now.
Technology facilitates better business habits
No matter your firm’s goals, practice and case management software provides the digital tools and centralised platform to implement effective business habits. With the fundamentals and essentials running smoothly with legal tech, you and your team can focus on driving the firm forward.
To succeed as a modern law firm, you’ll need to adopt and implement efficient digital, tech-driven habits that help to improve profitability, empower employees and deliver quality client care.