The speed of business is accelerating. We see it happening across the legal industry as a direct result of widespread digital transformation. There is a common trend across both law firms and corporate legal departments who want to do more with the legal data that they have at their disposal in an attempt to drive faster decision-making and to keep pace with the changing demands of client expectations.
The consumerisation of enterprise technology has led to an increasing expectation from lawyers, clients and business users alike that the legal technology they are using in the workplace for collaboration, knowledge management, transaction management and more should be as useful, intuitive and user-friendly as what they are already using at home on a day-to-day basis.
Digital workplaces are answering the demand for a better way to work, by providing a single platform to manage content, people and applications. As law firms review their technology strategy for the next three to five years, there is an opportunity to create digital workplaces that will match how lawyers will want to work in the future. Within a digital workplace, a lawyer will have access to relevant data and content, collaborate with both clients and colleagues, share knowledge and solve problems, all in real-time, from anywhere.
Digital transformation paves the way for digital workplaces
The impact of digital transformation is now a C-suite priority for most law firms. In fact, according to Gartner, two-thirds of all business leaders believe that their companies must pick up the pace of digitalisation to remain competitive. Accordingly, spending on digital transformation is projected to reach $1.7 trillion worldwide by the end of 20191.
The evolution and adoption of digital trends such as big data, the shift to the cloud, and the Internet of Things mean that digital transformation is no longer a novelty, it’s a necessity for law firms who want to win business by making it easier for their clients to interact, update and collaborate on their matters seamlessly, no matter where they’re located.
We are seeing evidence of digital transformation impacting the legal industry in two ways:
Law firms are reviewing their operating models from human resources, business development, IT and finance to lawyers themselves. New operating models and business strategies are driving a collective cultural change that delivers more value to clients.
As an organisation considers the cultural change they want to pursue in order to better serve their clients, they must also consider the technology stack that is required to deliver this change.
The concept of the digital workplace is born from pairing these two factors together. Businesses should be asking themselves these fundamental questions:
- What are the business goals we are trying to achieve?
- What is the cultural change required to meet those goals?
- What does the underlying technology stack need to look like to achieve those goals?
Law firms that are able to answer all three of these questions will be well equipped to create a digital workplace and thrive in this digital age.
Using digital workplaces to meet client expectations
Moving toward a more digital workplace is ultimately about transforming the client experience. If we look at innovative companies such as Amazon and Netflix, they are all focused on delivering a great customer experience and have created solutions to needs that we didn't know existed. So, what can the legal industry learn from these innovative companies? It is crucial to draw insights from your data to get closer to your clients. It’s a well-known fact that much of the success of Netflix comes from their data-driven approach to content production. Is it such a strange idea for law firms to take a similar approach?
Transforming the client experience in legal is more than just adopting the latest technology and delivering new legal service delivery models. Designing a client-centric experience seems almost counter intuitive for an industry where the partnership model and billable hour have served so well. As law firms begin to embrace a culture of change, the challenge is to first identify exactly what the underlying client experience should be and secondly, to define which business processes need to change to meet it.
Beyond the obvious improvements for clients, by embracing these challenges and offering digital workplaces, the firm creates a much better experience for lawyers and business users as well.
Digital workplaces as an indicator of innovation
Too often we see a contradiction between what the law firm is trying to achieve culturally and the technology that they have available to them. Browse to any number of law firm websites and you will find the words innovation and collaboration listed as either core values or differentiators. And yet, it is still common working practice for lawyers to work in closed offices within information silos, and at the same time, they still have to log in through a VPN before they can access the information they need on the go.
Clients are increasingly looking for meaningful differentiators between their panel firms. These days they may need to look beyond the legal pitch for evidence of true innovation and collaboration. Perhaps it’s no longer enough to ask the question, “How are you using technology to deliver my needs more efficiently?” Most firms have access to the same technology and tools, for example, Microsoft, artificial intelligence, HighQ. Perhaps the more revealing question is, “How are you using technology in your day-to-day work within the firm?” The answer to this question will help indicate whether or not the firm has really embraced digital transformation and digital workplaces to drive innovation. Law firms that only use technology to improve client-facing interactions are missing out on the opportunity to work more intelligently within their own business.
In today’s competitive legal landscape, law firms have to be closer to their clients than ever, understanding their business more deeply and delivering solutions to problems that clients may not even know they have yet. At the same time, clients are expecting firms to be using data, artificial intelligence and other technologies to predict outcomes, reduce costs, improve transparency and ultimately add value. The digital workplace will be one solution a law firm can provide to meet these needs. As client demands and expectations for more digital workplaces grow, law firms can’t afford to disappoint.