AJS Innovation

In today’s world the “hustle” is real. 

Wherever you look, people and businesses alike have their fingers in more than one pie. Trying their best to earn dimes and offer value in more than one income stream. It’s the way of the world. 

We call it the hustle but really, it’s a sign of the times – doing only one thing is no longer cutting it. Not in the fast-paced world we live in where your Uber driver is also shadowing as a stockbroker. You can arrive at your destination in more ways than one it seems. 

And it would seem the legal profession is not exempt. 

Traditionally legal process outsourcing companies (LPO’s) and alternative service providers, according to Major, Lindsey & Africa, disrupted the legal industry by offering “unique delivery models, specialized services, digital capabilities, and cost-effective pricing structures”. Law firms just couldn’t compete. 

But now, in what appears to be a cool sea breeze blowing through the legal halls, law firms, in an effort not to lose market share to the cunning LPO’s and alternative service providers are starting to take matters – and income – back into their own hands. 

Innovation?

When we think of lawyers, the last thing we think of – with respect – is innovation. Sure, we can picture marketing teams within legal operations pitching “innovative ideas” but truly innovating seems a far stretch. Memos and newsletters may go out preaching about innovative ideas, but implementation seems a far leap. 

And we mean this with the greatest amount of respect. 

Because the legal relationship between attorney and client, is for the most part, transactional. The lawyer performs a service and for that service the client pays a fee. It’s been that way since time immemorial. Only now, clients are expecting more. That’s the reason for the existence of the LPO’s and alternative service providers in the first place. They could offer additional services that provided value to the client. Something outside the traditional transaction relationship. 

This is where innovation comes in. 

Perhaps the first step is truly understanding what innovation means. The meaning of innovation, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is the creation of a new idea, method, or device. To do something in a new way. And in that process is the exploration of creative ways of improving an existing process or idea, focusing on self-improvement.

Applying this to legal services, and one can provide better client experiences with richer service offerings. Innovation can no longer be thought of as a single event. One transaction. One service and payment. Instead, innovation resides in multiple offerings where legal providers think outside the box.

How can law firms be more innovative?

It now boils down to whether you will be innovating for innovation’s sake, innovating insofar as sending out a newsletter to your clients indicating your intention to innovate or actually implementing innovative ways to offer additional services to clients. 

If you choose the latter, which we hope you will, it can form part and parcel of your legal service offerings or could be a precursor to the legal service offerings. Perhaps they are ancillary, off-shoot service offerings that you offer. Whatever way you go about approaching innovation remember that this is a creative process – think big.  Here are some suggestions to consider when adding value to your firm’s offerings – 

1.         It involves more than just legal advice – as we already know, clients expect more from their legal advisors. And this means involvement in issues that surpass pure legal matters. Legal advisors are now encouraged to be involved in matters involving the entire business – providing advice that is more holistic in nature, often involving current and potential business challenges spanning all of a business’s operations. This naturally requires a solid business acumen and intimate knowledge of a client’s history and industry. So, tap into this. 

2.         Offshoot services – law firms should look at the ancillary services around their focus areas. What could they offer their clients that would provide value? RAF Attorneys could provide scheduling services for doctor’s appointments as an example. It’s within this line of simple thought that value can be found and just maybe set one firm apart from another. How can you help your clients in ways other than, but not strictly disassociated with, the matter that you already do or could potentially handle for them?

3.         Client engagement apps – in an intensely digital world, the clients of today want to be able to access updates of their matter on the go, often in real-time, and at any time of the day (or night). This often means outside of the normal working hours (or reasonable working hours lawyers should be working). Clients also don’t want to have to pay for each and every interaction with their lawyer, especially when only requiring an update. By providing an interactive, self-serve type portal with real-time dashboard, law firms can help eliminate unnecessary meetings and reduce the burden on a firm’s attorneys and staff. Clients will also appreciate being able to continuously monitor the progress of their matters and access the information they need when they need it (without being charged for it too).

4.         Artificial Intelligence – with the advent and proliferation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) law firms are exploring new billable opportunities and developing potential new lines of business made possible by AI. For a start, AI can be used to perform legal research and discovery, eliminating significant billable hours for forward thinking law firms in the know. AI can also be used to forecast legal outcomes and help lawyers understand the odds of winning certain cases. In addition, AI has been found to be useful when reviewing contracts and other documents, specifically when identifying errors. By harnessing the immense volumes of legal data available inside their own firms and via external resources, firms can keep their attorneys focused on more important legal work and make better day-to-day decisions on behalf of their clients. This is something law firms should look into, albeit with some caution. 

The way forward

It’s clear that true innovation is an important competitive advantage for any law firm. And that often involves thinking outside the box. It also involves understanding that the provision of legal services is more than a single line item. Rather it’s a multidisciplinary approach and an important component of the innovation process where one connects pain points to the right outcome, often in a very simple, yet creative way. 

This coupled with the feverish pace of digital transformation within the legal space makes innovation even more imperative. By perhaps partnering with consulting, recruiting, and other advisory firms to explore alternative solutions, law firms can shed new light on options that can help optimise workflow, address skill gaps, shine light on where additional off-shoot service offerings can be found and how they can truly set themselves apart. Not just by name but by (additional) practice too. 

A law firm that’s ready to embrace this brave new world will not shy away from innovation. Instead, innovation will be regaled as the mighty soldier for growth. This is an opportunity for a law firm to reinvent the way they provide legal services and build a competitive advantage by meeting client needs in an innovative way.

To find out how to incorporate a new tool into your existing accounting and practice management suite, or how to get started with legal tech,  feel free to get in touch with AJS – we have the right combination of systems, resources and business partnerships to assist you with incorporating supportive legal technology into your practice. Effortlessly. 

AJS is always here to help you, wherever and whenever possible!

(Sources used and to whom we owe thanks: Major, Lindsey & Africa, Lexis Nexis here and here and Jack W Shepherd).

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