By Sonam Sharma
(Originally published on ILTAnet.org, February 19, 2021)
The age-old adage of change being the only constant has never been truer than in today’s times. With pandemic induced disruptions fast-tracking an already burgeoning impact of technology in day-to-day proceedings of your business and having a likewise impact in the lives of our clients, the ability to manage and react to this change must make all the difference between the longevity of your business and ensuring that you stay ahead of the market.
Over the last decade, a lot of energy has been spent towards understanding the pain points of the lawyers while constantly examining ways to reinvent to stay ahead of the competitors of varying scale, capabilities, and customer base. Change is inevitable but the transformation is a conscious choice. To navigate through a highly fluctuating market, we are witnessing law firms embracing change and revisiting their litigation support services and strategies to develop a unified and client-centric approach for their organizations. A focus on operational efficiency is becoming more about survival and excellence rather than a good-to-have organization priority.
So, what is this change that we are talking about?
The Legal industry is a fast pace world. Clients are rapidly outgrowing conventional models, largely as a result of how they are using technology in their everyday lives. As the expectations of the clients are ever-evolving, legal professionals need to find ways of delivering more seamless and client-centered experiences.
Client-facing services roles such as litigation support, legal assistants, and paralegals are the first points of contact for the commencement of legal work. These professionals play an important role in ensuring case proceedings go as smoothly as possible. However, due to the lack of synergies and functional silos between these groups the operational model can become obsolete/misaligned. “Over time, to maintain the efficiency of teams, it is important to focus on communications and the improvement of processes and procedures,” said Ardian Triantoro, Practice Support Manager, Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP.
To mitigate risks arising from process inefficiencies and to overcome organizational barriers, law firms need to bolster their capabilities by combining teams dealing with legal operations (such as clerks, paralegals, attorneys, and technical support). and develop communication strategies between them. The goal is to streamline the legal operations workflow to provide a connected experience to the client.
There’s no better time to start the transformation than now!
The more progressive law firms are methodically building and systematically delivering work in-house. Leveraging a base of existing skills, experience, and vendor relationships, organizations have merged their Litigation Technology Support and operational support teams into the Practice Support department to deliver value to customers.
Leading law firms such as Kirkland & Ellis, Latham & Watkins, Baker & McKenzie, Schulte Roth & Zabel, LLP have implemented new ways to approach critical back-office operational functions. “For the law firms, it is not just about implementing the technology but to shift the focus from commoditized services to high-value expertise to recalibrate a more predictable pricing model that generates a cost-effective outcome of the case,” said Jared Michael Coseglia, Founder & CEO of award-winning legal staffing firm TRU Staffing, Inc.
So where can you start?
To prepare for the future, you should begin with a focus on the following areas:
- Process: Strategize the ebbs and flows! Develop a communication map to help attorneys and staff members better understand the firm’s operating functions and how it fits together. Design effective processes that drive transparency and have a clear description of tasks and outcomes.
- People: A starting point for assessing the firm’s capabilities is to determine skills, competencies, the talent available and create a capability map. Align skills with the evolving business needs and identify partnership opportunities with a focus on enabling attorneys to focus on long-term strategic decision-making; and
- Technology: Understand the business needs and align the technology with the law firm organizational framework so that it is supporting the firm’s overall business objectives. It is about using technology to improve the old ways of working.
The more things change, law firms will see increased benefits from…
- Seamless Client Service: Today, clients expect effortless experience from start to finish. It is critical to serving as a team member to the clients. By streamlining the processes internally, the practice support department acts as an all-in-one suite that law firms can leverage to build a repeatable and defensible process for optimal service delivery.
- Efficiency Across Legal Ecosystem: Litigation professionals are masters in their field and have worked with a multitude of attorneys on countless cases over time. By utilizing in-house expertise, law firms can establish robust business practices to allow for quick and effective decision-making.
- Reduced Costs: Staying on top of technology and constantly building expertise enables law firms to design custom-tailored solutions designed for cost efficiency and operational excellence.
Key Takeaway: The problem is that this is easier said than done, but the actual mantra is not perfection; it is an iterative progression!