Law firms of the future are likely to succeed by integrating non-lawyer specialists, such as project managers, into their businesses and collaborating with technology companies, it has been predicted.
Rachel Roberts, head of business solutions at Bristol-based Burges Salmon, also said the profession needs to find the right balance in training “ethically minded legal professionals who are equipped to keep modernising how they deliver legal services”.
Writing on ‘SmartLaw’ in a paper published by legal IT company HighQ, Ms Roberts said it was clear that “any successful business will have to develop the ability to be agile”. This needed three related areas to come together: investment in people, technology and service delivery.
“People will continue to be the most important asset that a law firm has. Intellectual capital will be optimal where legal specialism, client and sector knowledge are matched by organisational and technological knowledge.
“Budding lawyers will be joined by a growing number of other graduates such as project managers, business analysts and technologists who understand how to deliver complex projects efficiently and effectively.”
Successful law firms needed to be “great places to work” and to build a culture that sees opportunities. “This means investing now, and integrating within the business, thought leaders and managers.”
Ms Roberts continued: “Technology presents exciting opportunities for lawyers willing to embrace new ways of working and a future-thinking law firm will nurture the intuitive use of technology by Millennials. Collaborative projects with start-up technology companies offering hosted software platforms will be common-place and will necessitate grappling with the niceties of data security and sovereignty.”
She predicted that in future firms could not be ‘all things to all men’. “So we need to make strategic choices now that identify the genuine specialisms required to meet future client needs. Clear definition of service lines, methods of delivery, defined resourcing, use of know-how (both legal and organisational) and use of service delivery platforms will become the norm for successful law firms.” This meant that the lawyer of the future would be “tech savvy” and have both legal and organisational skills.
“More than ever, lawyers also need to be able to see how their input fits into the broader context i.e. the commercial project or deal. The profession needs to find the right balance between training ethically minded legal professionals who are equipped to keep modernising how they deliver legal services.
“Oscar Wilde coined the phrase ‘a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing’. Successful law firms and budding lawyers now and of the future will focus heavily on what value means to clients.
“This will inform more sophisticated pricing, better approaches to delivering legal services, reward intelligent use of technology and necessitate a broader integrated skill set within the delivery team.”