Post by Stu Gooderham |
In a previous blog I had talked about the importance of putting in place processes to manage the client matter lifecycle as the first step in a firm’s journey towards the ‘connected firm’ nirvana. Fundamental to delivering ‘anything’ in a law firm is of course its human resource (HR) – optimise it and organisations can not only exceed client expectations but also achieve both employee satisfaction & engagement, and profitability.
So how can firms do this? There are two essentials – adoption of strategic HR management processes and actionable data.
Strategic HR management encompasses everything from recruitment and employee on-boarding; resource allocation; skills, talent and appraisal management through to succession planning. To illustrate the need for this approach, take the scenario of skills gaps and requirements. A firm is working on a corporate matter for an international client and finds during the course of execution that there is an immediate need for management expertise, language skills and local awareness to deal with stakeholders in Asia alongside expertise in Chinese law. Rather than being confronted with the issue at the last minute, the ideal situation would be that the firm was able to forecast such personnel and expertise requirements in a timely manner. But to do this, the organisation needs accessible data in order to undertake a skills analysis across the entire firm. Similarly, a firm may need to price a complex matter using a variety of fee arrangements – it can only do this accurately if it has access to historical evidence that shows the skill set needed, at what level, how long will the matter take, estimate of cost versus revenue and so on.
Using technology that makes strategic HR management part of the fabric of the firm and seamlessly links it to the financial function of the organisation is important. Firms can then undertake employee lifecycle management from the day an individual joins the firm – through structured career development, performance management and skills development training – in alignment with both the employee’s personal goals and the business goals of the firm.
Seamlessly interconnecting the HR and financial functions will give firms visibility of how their most expensive and critical resource is being utilised, whether the firm is making money, what permutation and combination can be devised to improve profitability and quality of service, where cost savings can be made and the like. All of this will help the firm deliver a service that exceeds the expectations of its clients, whilst also retaining its best people.
After all, as staff accounts for the highest proportion of cost in law firms, the human resource must be leveraged to the full. And traditionally law firms have not invested enough in their primary resource!
In my next blog, I’ll talk about how business operation can be aligned across matters, resources, practices and departments to create a ‘connected’ firm that thrives on ‘continuous improvement’.