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Managing Legal Innovation at Your Law Firm
BY Matt Torrens

Today's society demands everything to have a quick, cheap and easy solution. 

This has led to disruptors in every market. Airbnb has more rooms than all hotels do globally, Uber are the market leaders in taxi services with no taxis to call their own, and Amazon led the charge to become the quickest product distribution company for consumers.

 

One industry undergoing a longer change adoption cycle is legal. The more traditional methods of many law firms causes the sector to remain the most expensive service industry in the UK. Of course, it is not quite this simple but many legal commentators believe that a more rapid uptake of modern technology would lower financial barriers of entry to customers.

 

For firms looking to carve themselves a distinct competitive advantage, this causes a dilemma. Do you try and innovate on top of a tried and tested practice which has worked well for decades or do you stick to your methods and put yourself at risk of other firm overtaking you?

 

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Legal Innovation at a glance

Legal innovation is the introduction of changes to the culture of a firm, its attitudes, its technology and its management to boost client satisfaction and increase internal efficiency.

 

According to statistics from Lexology, 30% of law firms have an internal role dedicated to delivering legal and operational innovation. In fact, many larger businesses in the legal sector have entire departments focused on developing new ways to work with clients. With such a push within the industry to improve, why is there no consensus yet on the success of these campaigns?

 

One of the most vocal critics of legal innovation in its current forms comes from Forbes Contributor Mark Cohen who criticises the bloated spending of these change delivery teams. He attributes this to a rise of legal fundamentalism and to legal innovation teams’ resistance to introducing change from outsider firms like LegalZoom because of a focus on bespoke solutions created and realised in-house.

 

When it comes to innovation, there is no solution that will work for all companies. As such, it's best to consider the opportunities that your individual firm can benefit from individually.

 

 

Digitised Information

How does it benefit the client?

 

Clients, especially with one-off needs such as selling a home, want to easily access their documents at a moment’s notice.

 

Which company would it suit?

 

Companies which handle a large quantity of similar services, for example conveyancing and company formations, would save money on bulk managing the data. It would allow a firm to build a system to manage most of the set up of each individual client’s case quickly and efficiently.

 

Working Example

 

Yopa is an online full service estate agent that offers a £999 sales plan that focuses on providing an easy, efficient service to their clients. By focusing on one product, they have optimised every step of their service. This includes home valuations, by collaborating with local firms to manage the project. They deliver their information through their service YopaHub. This gives the client the best of both worlds and has led them to achieve a 4.7 star rating on Trustpilot.

 

 

Time Entry Optimisation

How does it benefit the client?

 

More accurate timekeeping allows the client the peace of mind that the overall price for the services they’re paying for is less likely to change dramatically based on potential unknown complexities at the outset. As such, clients can be offered a fixed fee for a legal service which otherwise might cost a fortune through no fault of their own and which potentially could go into financial default because the client doesn’t have the wherewithal to pay your firm.

 

Which company would it suit?

 

Any firm that handles difficult timekeeping situations can benefit from analysis software that manages the pricing that they have to offer. This is especially true of larger firms where clients could be assigned based on the speed of the solicitor. A well-managed time entry optimisation solution maximises profitability.

 

Working Example

 

Many companies are branding around affordability and price. One significant marketing campaign is from First4Lawyers which has optimised the processing of personal injury claims dramatically. This has led to them developing individual processes for many niche injuries, including needlestick and horseback riding injuries.

 

Systems Development

How does it benefit the client?

 

Building new systems which help the customer manage their varying needs is costly but they can boost client loyalty in the longer term by offering an exact service tailored to their specifications. If the client is large enough, it can help develop an reliable partnership which will be difficult for the client to leave.

 
Which company would it suit?

 

If your firm manages a diverse body of legal work for large clients, the boost to profitability could be significant by automising as much of the regular type of work you do for them as possible.

 

 
Working Example

 

Bird & Bird won the award for "Future of Legal Services Innovation for a Large Private Practice" at the 2019 Legal Week Innovation Awards. They won this because of their patent portfolio valuation tool which appraises an entire portfolio of patents at speed. This tool uses historic deal data to help provide accurate predictions into the future and provide an accurate overview for clients with heavy investments into patents.

 

Systems Implementation

How does it benefit the client?

 

Readymade solutions for various different types of function are available for a variety of legal practices which will, upon adoption, handle the bulk of work effectively. Some readymade solutions also offer options to make the software more bespoke for a particular practice’s requirements (usually at an additional cost).

 

This means that solutions that would cost a fortune to develop in house are provided at a discount in comparison which means the cost is not passed on to the client.

 

Which company would it suit?

 

Smaller firms, especially those who struggle with data management, could maximise their profitability by minimising the amount of time spent by replacing general software solutions with software designed specifically for legal firms. Although this may require some staff training which could slow down the company during the transition, the long term benefits may be significant especially as the practice grows for both efficiency and capacity.

 

Working Example

 

Our clients at Sprout IT have managed to outpace their own growth expectations through intelligent use of the tools and systems we have developed for legal firms. Our no-nonsense approach has allowed us to provide a solution that is suitable for legal firms that can grow with the company.

 

To speak with one of our team about legal IT technology innovation for your solicitor’s practice or barrister’s chambers, please call Sprout IT today on 020 7036 8530 or email us.

 

 

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