Law Firm Service: Back to Business Basics and Technology

Much has been written on the adoption of technology by law firms to better serve corporate clients. Some large law firms have set up departments to help clients with technology assessment and innovation, like Davis Wright Tremaine’s DeNovo initiative. However, smaller law firms resist many of the automation and efficiency solutions on the market, arguing that in-house attorneys and legal operations professionals should lead workflow changes—not technology companies.

Legal tech solutions need to be simple and improve efficiency, while integrating with other solutions, so that users—whether attorney or client—do not have to log in to multiple systems. I wrote here about how it’s truly not as scary as many attorneys believe and that technology is absolutely necessary.

At several Evolve Law events, in-house counsel listed a variety of their pain points:

  • Track changes in word/document management (revisions)
  • Knowledge management/artificial intelligence
  • E-Signatures and closings
  • Meetings and institutional memory
  • Litigation/eDiscovery
  • Innovation disclosure and capture
  • Docketing
  • Customer relationship management (CRM)
  • Project management
  • Performance metrics (KPIs)
  • Data management
  • Billing & collection systems
  • Referrals/alternative fee arrangements

The above-mentioned represent a wide range of problems for general counsel. However, they all fall into two categories: issues for the attorney themselves and challenges they face while working within their company. Law firms with corporate clients have to understand that in-house attorneys are often stuck in the middle and have their own set of internal customers or clients. Using technology to solve problems between a general counsel and internal customers can have a significantly positive impact on the relationship.

Also, similar to the CFO, the head of the legal department is often avoided and viewed as the naysayer. Having clunky technology or systems and processes will only amplify the situation so taking an integrated approach to system selection is a major deciding factor.

It’s time that firms started serving corporate clients as business people rather than attorneys. Business people use technology and metrics. Therefore, the focus should be on two topics near and dear to my heart: project management and performance measurement. Both of these offer opportunities for collaboration between firms and clients and integration of systems and reporting.

People should approach legal project management the same way as any other industry, where the end goal is to deliver satisfactory services to clients. Whether billable hours or flat fees, project management principles are constant.

It’s useless to implement technology unless it adds value to the clients, regardless of who you define as your customer. No matter the industry, we all are here to add value to our clients. Technology will add value through efficiency, but we have to measure that through key performance indicators (KPIs). On the law firm side, metrics are needed to assess client satisfaction, and in-house needs KPIs to measure the performance of the outside firms. Using objective measures and targets can strengthen any relationship by improving communication.

Always happy to chat about my thoughts on #legaltech; reach out on twitter @maryjuetten.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mary Juetten, J.D., is the founder and CEO of Traklight, a platform to manage risk, identify and track IP, and maximize value for small- to medium-sized businesses, and co-founder of Evolve Law. She holds professional accounting designations in Canada and the US and has almost thirty years of business experience. Learn more about legal technology at the spring Evolve Law events in Seattle, LA, and NYC.