2018: Resolve to Modernize Law Firm Management

January 8, 2018 Posted in Firm News

The turn of the year is the perfect time to think about starting fresh and trying something new. While you are busy working toward that six-pack, being more mindful, or learning a new language, why not commit to trying something new at your law firm or department? With most legal teams, rigid roles, hierarchical structures, and top-down management are still the norm. In fact, any lawyer from the 1800s could walk in and feel quite familiar with the archaic case management styles most lawyers rely upon. For law firm or department leaders, the new year is the perfect time to consider resolutions to bring your legal team into the modern age. Here are a few to consider:

Try Project Management. While lawyers’ management approach have fossilized, business leaders and thinkers have revolutionized team and project management. As a law firm or department manager, you have a wide selection of techniques and approaches to better motivate your team members, increase and improve communication, and unite them towards a common goal. This year, why not resolve to try a new approach: let go of  “command and control” and push an “engage and create” leadership style that empowers your team members? Here’s an easy place to start: hold a 10-minute, daily stand-up meeting with all your team members to review important tasks for the day and how to effectively accomplish them. Encourage every team member to provide input.

Have an Alternative Fee Arrangement Strategy. Lawyer’s traditional hourly billing approach is likewise slowly going the way of the dinosaur. It is easy to see why: client’s crave AFA’s because they provide clarity, predictability, and efficiency. Law firm managers should fully embrace AFA’s because they align the client and law firm’s interests, resulting in stronger and ultimately more long-term partnerships. But don’t just wing it—analyze your prior performance on cases, consider your strengths, and determine the real value your firm can deliver.

Embrace the Robot Overlords. As individual consumers, lawyers likely use and enjoy ideas and technologies to make life easier that were unheard of just a few years ago—like ride-sharing with Uber, or having Amazon’s Alexa at home. But ironically, lawyers seem slow to use emerging technology to make their legal work more efficient and effective. Why not make 2018 the year your firm or legal department leverages new technology like machine learning and artificial intelligence to assist lawyers in creating and managing contracts, conducting precise legal research, reviewing discovery, preparing legal briefs, and much more. For midsize and smaller firms, this sophisticated technology can level the playing field with larger, more resource-heavy competitors, opening the door to new clients.

Improve your processes. Lawyers are trained to see everything as unique and distinguishable based on the specific facts. But lawyers are discovering what business managers have known for decades—every service has process aspects that can be improved to more predictably and efficiently meet firm and client objectives. Whether intentionally or not, you have created processes at your firm that control client intake, billing, work assignment, court appearances, legal research, and more. So, do your processes repeatedly produce the exact results you are shooting for? If not, then 2018 should be your year to choose a firm process and improve it. Or go further, sign up to for six sigma process improvement training online or at your local university—you will be miles ahead of the competition.

Get serious about your cybersecurity. At least 30 states now impose an ethical obligation on lawyers to stay abreast of current technology developments. Yet lawyers are notorious resistant to seeing themselves as potential cybersecurity victims. According to the 2016 ABA technology survey, only 17.1 percent of all law firms had an incident response plan in place to address a security breach. Firms with 500 lawyers or more didn’t fair much better, with 50 percent claiming to have such a plan.  This year, managers should resolve to tackle cybersecurity challenges. Even if you feel too busy to develop and roll out comprehensive IT policies and procedures, try tackling one issue—how you would respond to a malware attack, for example. Or try upgrading one service, like signing up for secure document transfer service for your client’s most sensitive documents and data.

So, there you have it—five low-effort but potentially high return suggestions for resolutions to modernize and improve your law firm or department management. But why bother—resolutions are made to be broken, right? In reality, as much as people make jokes about broken resolutions, studies show that nearly 45 percent of those who make resolutions are still working at them six months later, and people who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to reach their goals. So, as we launch into the new year, use it as an opportunity for a fresh start. Break free from the law firm management rut and try just one of the resolutions above, or create your own.There are no rules that require law firm management to be etched in stone. This year, makes some changes.

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