With high-value, low-cost and efficient service fast becoming a common expectation of clients, law firms need to achieve efficiency in ‘everything’ they do – even ‘bespoke’ legal work! A process management approach to legal business operation is perhaps the answer.
Legal process management (LPM) drives profitability and simultaneously ensures client satisfaction – two key goals of any legal services provider in the current cut-throat, customer-churn prone and rapidly changing business environment.
However, from talking to many of our clients, they often mention stakeholder buy-in as one of the biggest obstacles to LPM adoption. Up until now, law firms have focussed on the classical top-line revenue growth as a metric of success, but now they must focus on profitability. This requires a fundamental change in mind-set and it appears that there is a reluctance to invest in this new way of thinking.
LPM provides the much needed visibility of every aspect of the law firm operation – right from resources to finance through to business development and client engagement. It facilitates strategic planning, management and execution of every task and process in the profitable manner alongside cost control of service production to the nth degree. Most critically, it helps to separate the ‘process’ from the ‘advice’ – after all clients pay law firms for advice, they are uninterested in how the service is delivered.
Furthermore, there are many technology solutions available and so deciding on which is the right tool for a firm is undoubtedly proving a challenge for law firms. To this end, LPM must be looked at as an aid for ‘continuous quality improvement’ and so it is not about adopting a ‘one tool fits all’ approach. Law firms need to first assess their business – what they do well, where there is room for improvement, in which areas an overhaul is required and so on – and then determine the tool that fits the bill.
In addition, there is no mechanism to instigate a new way of working overnight, but a concerted and convincing effort top-down to communicate the rationale and benefits of new processes is a good place to start. Experience also tells us that cultural change is best implemented in small measures. Yet again, technology can be an enabler of change in law firms. Workflow-based systems allow process improvements, streamline flow of information within the boundaries of the organisation and even with clients, where necessary.
But you can’t do it all! Frequently, law firms try to do it all themselves, which sometimes ends up becoming a time-consuming, frustrating and costly endeavour. LPM adoption is not so much about implementing a technology system, but about mapping business processes to strategic goals and then tailoring the technology solution to individual business needs. Law firms will likely gain more by leaving the technology implementation to third party vendors (who have the knowledge, tools and experience to make it happen) and focussing on adjusting their working practices and processes to adopt the new tools and techniques.